Many foreign dignitaries of democratic countries are mourning the passing of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) on Thursday and celebrating his vital contributions to Taiwan’s democratization, while China has said that a push for Taiwanese independence begun by Lee cannot work.
As of yesterday afternoon, 206 foreign dignitaries from 45 countries and organizations had expressed sadness over Lee’s death, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Among the first to express grief on Thursday night, Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Representative Hiroyasu Izumi said in a statement that he was deeply saddened about losing Lee, who “embodied the mental bonds of Japan and Taiwan.”
Photo: Lin Tsuei-yi, Taipei Times
“Since the time I was still a young diplomat, I always hoped to receive instruction from Teacher Lee Teng-hui, who is a great statesman, strategist, agriculturist and philosopher,” Izumi wrote in Japanese and Chinese. “After I assumed the representative office in Taiwan in November last year, I aspired to learn from Lee, but that hope can never be realized now, which will become my lifelong regret as a diplomat.”
The seeds that Lee sowed for Taiwan’s democracy have come to fruition, Izumi said, expressing his hope that Lee would continue to see Taiwan’s glory from heaven.
Yesterday, Izumi also hosted a ceremony at the association to mark Lee’s passing.
“President Lee’s death is truly regrettable, and I pray for his soul from the bottom of my heart,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday, as well as writing it on Twitter. “Japanese people have special feelings of closeness to Lee, a person who laid the foundation of Japan-Taiwan ties.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter: “The United States offers its deepest condolences to Taiwan on the passing of its first democratically elected president, Lee Teng-hui. We will continue to cherish his dedication to strengthening the US-Taiwan relationship through shared democratic values.”
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said that it would fly the US national flag at half mast for three days at its headquarters in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖) to mark Lee’s passing.
“An alumnus of Iowa State University and Cornell University, President Lee also epitomized the strong people-to-people ties which bind the United States and Taiwan,” the AIT said in a statement.
“Throughout his life, President Lee was a superlative leader, reformist and public servant,” said Project 2049 Institute chairman Randall Schriver, former US assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, in a statement.
“The free world will miss him,” former US national security adviser John Bolton wrote on Twitter.
“On behalf of the government and people of Saint Lucia, I offer our deepest sympathies to Taiwan at this sad time,” said Allen Chastanet, prime minister of Saint Lucia, a formal ally of Taiwan.
The British Office Taipei, the European Economic and Trade Office and other local representative offices also honored Lee’s role in building Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.
Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) wrote on Twitter that Lee’s passing was another devastating blow for the territory’s democracy, but added: “His spirit will live on as we continue to fight for our freedom here.”
Asked to comment on Pompeo’s remarks about Lee, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said that Taiwanese independence only leads to a dead end.
The historical trend of the unification and rejuvenation of the Chinese people would not be hindered by any people or any forces, he said, calling on other countries to observe Beijing’s “one China” principle.
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