Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has generally been perceived as someone who is resourceful, principled and often serious. Few, however, know that the 88-year-old can be also funny and that used to sneak around to evade his wife’s efforts to keep him on a healthy diet.
A bodyguard who protected Lee during his 12-year presidency said that former first lady Tseng Wen-hui (曾文惠) was strict about Lee’s diet because Lee had developed diabetes.
Lee, who stands 180cm tall and weighs about 77kg, apparently found it difficult to stick to the diet at first because he would get so hungry — hungry enough to take food from others’ plates before dinner, according to the bodyguard, who wished to remain anonymous.
When Tseng found out, she asked the chef to ration the amount of food on the dinner table, the guard said. However, this tactic didn’t work because Lee would slip into the kitchen to snack before dinner, he said, so then the kitchen staff was given specific instructions not to give Lee any food.
Lee came up with another plan, this time involving his bodyguards. Lee and his guards lived in the same complex, but the guards’ food was prepared separately.
One time, Lee told his wife that he was going to practice golf with his guards, the bodyguard said. During practice, Lee asked the guards what they were having for lunch, and when he found out it was pork chops, he ditched practice and joined them for lunch, the bodyguard said.
Another time, Lee told his wife he was going for a haircut, even though the couple had a personal hairdresser who came on a regular basis. Tseng later discovered Lee had gone to eat steamed -dumplings with his guards, the bodyguard said.
Whenever Lee was busted, Tseng would scold him and he would usually just sit there and listen, the guard said, but sometimes he would tell her that he was hungry.
CAT AND MOUSE
This cat-and-mouse game lasted for about six months before Lee got used to the stringent diabetic diet, the guard said.
When Lee was celebrating his birthday last month, Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) poked fun at him by calling him a “loyal member of the PTT.” PTT refers to pa tai tai (怕太太), meaning “afraid of one’s wife”).
To express his love for his wife of 62 years, Lee gave her 99 roses, a big kiss and three simple words: “I love you.”
If a decade-long service as Lee’s bodyguard has taught him anything, it was that Lee never played favorites, at least in terms of their promotions, the guard said.
“He let us know that we were chosen because we were the best. However, if we wanted to get promoted or land a job somewhere else, we had to work hard and prove our worth,” the guard said.