Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 4 News List

New book by Lee sheds light on CCK's last days

CHANGES The former president details how he was chosen by Chiang Ching-kuo to be vice president, but is skeptical that Chiang intended to see Taiwanese in power

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

The cover of Lee Teng-hui's new book: Witness Taiwan: President Chiang Ching-kuo and Me .

Former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) will today launch his latest book Witness Taiwan: President Chiang Ching-kuo and Me (見證台灣:蔣經國與我) in which he narrates the process by which he was chosen by the late Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) to be his vice president and how Chiang ushered in policies for democratization and localization of the KMT party-state in the last years of Chiang's presidency.

The book was compiled by the Academia Historica (國史館) and contains Lee's oral reminiscences and written notes taken by him between 1984 and 1988 containing instructions and assignments from his personal conversations with Chiang.

In the book, Lee details the process by which Chiang appointed him vice president at a Central Committee meeting in February 1984. The appointment resulted in Lee's becoming the first Taiwan-born president when Chiang died in 1988.

Lee said the most crucial moment in the rise of his status in the KMT happened in the central committee meeting as he was formally nominated by Chiang as the vice president.

Lee writes:

On Feb. 15, 1984, the KMT convened its second Central Committee meeting in the Sun Yat-sen Hall (中山樓) on Yangmingshan. The primary task of the meeting was to nominate a candidate for vice president. After signing in for the meeting, I sat down in the first row of the seats, waiting for the meeting to begin. For the KMT, the arrangement of the seats is very important. It signifies the ranking of the central committee members. I remembered my ranking was one of the top few. The first seat in the first row was Chiang's seat, followed by other party seniors. Not long after I took the seat, Premier Sun Yun-shuan (孫運璿) came and spoke quietly to me: "Congratulations. The president will nominate you as the vice president later on. You'll find no problem to pass [the nomination]." He said it very politely and added a few words like "I agree to it, too." It meant Chiang had already told him about his plan for the nomination; otherwise he wouldn't have come to congratulate me. At that time, many expected Sun himself to take the vice presidency. Until this day, rumors had it that it was because he had a stroke that Chiang did not nominate him. Actually Sun hadn't had the stroke at the time that Chiang made his choice for the nomination.

Chiang had an office in Sun Yat-sen Hall, right above the stairs at the left side of the hall's stage. The office was used for the reception of guests and there was a bed inside. Chiang would stay there if he had a meeting in the hall and most of the time he would just rest on the bed. During the Central Committee meeting, everyone was paying attention to all who walked up and down those stairs. The point of this was that everyone was hoping to be summoned by Chiang to walk up that stairs. That meant a chance of promotion or change of post.

After Sun offered his congratulations, there was not much time left before the meeting began. Then I saw Hsieh Tung-min (謝東閔) [late vice president as well as the Chiang's first vice president], walk up the stairs. Five or six minutes later, he came down with a sour look on his face. I knew that something happened. Soon after that, Chiang's chief aide-de-camp came to tell me that "the president wants to see you." The president then told me that "Teng-hui, this time I would like to nominate you as the vice president." I declined immediately, saying "I can't. In terms of qualification and ability, I still have some problems." Then Chiang said "I think it should be OK. You will do fine." Since he has made the words so straightforward, I thanked him and then walked down the stairs. As I returned to my seat, Sun took a look at me. I think he knew that the president had told me his decision.

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