Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has embarked on a three-day trip to central Taiwan where he is to visit areas hit by the 921 earthquake, which killed more than 2,400 people, 13 years ago this month.
The 89-year-old is scheduled to visit areas in Nantou County and Greater Taichung near the Chelungpu fault (車籠埔斷層) , the epicenter of the 7.6 magnitude quake, to inspect post-disaster reconstruction.
Dozens of school children from Cingshui Elementary School, which was left severely damaged after the disaster, in the county’s Jhongliao Township (中寮) welcomed Lee yesterday and thanked the former president for his efforts to rebuild the school and the area during the final year of his presidency.
While dissatisfaction over government-led relief work was said to be one of the reasons that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lost the 2000 presidential election, Lee, then president and KMT chairman, was praised for his leadership in the daunting task of rescuing, restoring and rebuilding the area after the quake.
Lee’s performance during the period was often cited as example to his successors, in particular incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who has been criticized for his poor handling of many disaster relief operations.
Education, along with residents’ recovery from post-quake trauma, have been two of the main issues the former president has paid attention to. Speaking at a meeting with a group of teachers and volunteers, Lee said that he thought that quality education is key for local children to improve their skills and fight poverty.
While the school — now complete with a scenic campus and attractive buildings — is beautiful, and teachers, parents and volunteers are passionate about education, Lee lamented the poor condition of the area’s infrastructure.
“This place looks pretty much the same as it did 13 years ago. That tells you the government has not been doing its job, in particular the central government,” Lee said, adding that the central government has to shoulder most of the responsibility for maintaining infrastructure because most local governments are enduring serious financial difficulties.
Lee is scheduled to visit Wufong (霧峰), Shihgang (石岡) and Dongshih (東勢) before returning to Taipei tomorrow.