Mr. Democracy or Independence Godfather? Former President Lee Teng-hui Dies at 98, Leaving Complicated Legacy
Former President Lee Teng-hui, who was the first popularly-elected president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), died at age 98. His life and legacy remain complicated and debated. (Photo from:
Lee Teng-hui Passes Away on July 30, Leaving Complicated Legacy
World Journal, July 31, 2020
Former President Lee Teng-hui of the Republic of China (Taiwan) passed away on July 30, at the age of 98. Lee Teng-hui was the first president to be elected by popular vote. In his 12-year presidency, he not only dominated, but also manipulated Taiwan’s politics. He was once internationally known as "Mr. Democracy,” who later also became “the Godfather of Political Corruption” who swept through Taiwan’s political arena. His reputation during his lifetime was polarized and hard to give a final judgement even after his death.
Pompeo Pays Condolences and Praises Lee’s Bold Reforms
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of the United States issued a statement on July 30, expressing condolences on behalf of the American people. He praised Lee for ushering in a new era of economic prosperity, openness, and rule of law, playing a key role in bold reforms, making Taiwan the beacon of democracy as it is today and also consolidating the long-standing friendship of the United States and Taiwan.
Because he advocated a localized Taiwanese identity, Lee acquired the title of "Godfather of Taiwan Independence." After Taiwan's first transfer of political power in 2000, President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) continued Lee's course. (Photo from:
United Daily News)
Lee Teng-hui's Glory and Darkness: Taiwan's Unbearable Turning Point
United Daily News Editorial
, August 1, 2020
As the leader of Taiwan’s transition from an authoritarian country to a democracy, former President Lee Teng-hui won the nice title of “Mr. Democracy”. As the advocate of Taiwanese local identity, Lee was called “Godfather of Taiwan Independence”. The road from “Mr. Democracy” to “Godfather of Taiwan Independence” was a discontinuous dash line, symbolizing Lee’s turning from the frustrated route of democracy to the narrow road of Taiwanese nationalism. Because of this, when Lee passed away at the advanced age of 98, while those affiliated with both the Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) expressed condolences, what he left for Taiwan is a split society of divided identity.
When he was young, Lee was a member of the Communist Party and studied the philosophy of Hegelian dialectics. He joined the KMT when he was middle-aged, and finally became the nation’s leader. During his tenure as chairman of the KMT, he often helped the opposition DPP surreptitiously. When he was old, Lee became the spiritual leader of the small party Taiwan Solidarity Union. Such a strange and jumpy history not only reflects Lee’s capriciousness of personal ideas, but also depicts a politician’s political beliefs that is not self-sustained. Although recently the powerful personnel of the DPP still deemed Lee as the political teacher, yet Taiwan’s democratic atmosphere had changed. Lee Teng-hui probably knew the change deeply and he could no longer offer meaningful advice on democracy to the Blue Camp and the Green Camp.
The so-called February power struggle in the 1990s involved the local (Taiwanese) "mainstream faction" led by Lee Teng-hui and the mainlander "conservative faction" led by Hau Pei-tsun. In the end, Lee triumphed, and he began to dominate Taiwan's politics. (Photo from:
Mr. Democracy or Machiavellian of Power Struggles
By Yang Tai-shuenn
United Daily News, August 2, 2020
The passing of late former President Lee Teng-hui triggered a litany of articles on his life and achievements in the media, especially profusely acclaiming his contribution to Taiwan’s democracy, and even dubbing him "Mr. Democracy" in memory of him for leading Taiwan’s transformation to democracy.
However, from the day Lee took office as the president to his death at nearly a hundred years old, the Legislative Yuan as a showcase for democracy has degraded into a bear pit of fights and scuffles. It begs the question of what kind of democracy "Mr. Democracy" has shaped for Taiwan. Or perhaps democracy is just a convenient veil and tool that Lee used to strike at his rivals during the power struggles?
The Ministry of Culture asked the Public Television Service to set up an international channel and promote government propaganda, stirring hot debate in the board of directors. (Photo from:
United Daily News)
Suffering from Balance of Terror, PTS Might Become External Propaganda Machine
United Daily News Editorial, July 29, 2020
In order to determine whether the Public Television Service (PTS) should set up an "International Channel" at the request of the Ministry of Culture (MOC), the PTS's provisional board of directors went through a fierce fight.
There were two focal points of controversy on the board meeting. One was related to a procedural issue: the PTS management was secretly commissioned by the MOC to organize the international audio-visual platform while the board of directors was completely in the dark, which raised the issue of "procedural injustice." The other was the substantive issue: the opposing party rejected the government's intervention in the PTS, lest the proposed international channel become a tool of " grand strategy for external propaganda"; the favoring faction advocated that Taiwan should have a national platform on which we can speak up internationally. Two parties were locked in stalemate. The general manager and his deputy who admitted negligence in procedural matter eventually tendered their resignations in a bid to exchange for the support from the opposing faction on board meeting.
Businessman Lee Heng-lung attempted to regain ownership of the SOGO department store chain by allegedly bribing six incumbent and former legislators. Lee is now detained by the prosecution. (Photo from:
United Daily News)
July 29: The Ministry of Culture commissioned the Public Television Service (PTS) to set up an international multimedia platform, triggering controversy over the government interfering PTS operations. The Ministry of Culture announced that it would terminate its four-year NT$5.8 billion (about US$197 million) tender and seek alternative options.
July 29: The new eID (national identity card) was originally scheduled to be issued this October, but the Ministry of the Interior postponed renewal due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Many experts from the data security and legal profession as well as the Taiwan Association for Human Rights have opposed the new eID because there is yet a special law to protect individual privacy and may involve constitutionality concerns. Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang stated that he plans to raise the issue of setting up a body to protect individual data privacy.
July 30: The Taipei District Prosecutors Office investigated the case of Chang Kang-wei, chairman of Far Eastern Air Transport, and nine others for illegally depleting the company's assets. Three involved were First Bank Chairman Jason Liao, Land Bank of Taiwan Chairman Huang Po-tsuan, and Taiwan Cooperative Bank General Manager Chen Shih-ching. This is the first instance where a president or general manager of a Taiwanese publicly-held bank has been indicted.
July 31: In the Kaohsiung City Council speaker by-election, the Kuomintang's Zeng Li-yan won by 35 votes, securing the KMT's advantage in the city council. In June, the KMT had lost the mayoral recall vote, and the city council speaker had committed suicide. The speaker by-election on July 31 was viewed as a critical battle for KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang. The Kaohsiung City Council currently has 65 members. The KMT's Zheng Li-yan received 35 votes to become speaker, with support from independent councilors. Her DPP opponent Councilor Jhang Sheng-fu received 27 votes.
August 1: A collective bribery case broke out among current and former legislators. The Taipei District Prosecutors Office searched 65 locations including the Legislative Yuan and various residences and interviewed 63 people.
After investigation, the prosecution detained four incumbent and one former legislators: the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching, the KMT's Legislator Liao Kuo-tung and Legislator Chen Chao-ming, indepedent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu, and the New Power Party's Chairman and former Legislator Hsu Yung-ming. Former Legislator Mark Chen was released on a NT$500,000 (about US$17,000) bail.
The aforementioned legislators received a total of about NT$40 million (about US$1.3 million) in bribes to pressure the Ministry of Economic Affairs in order to amend the Company Act and help the fight over control of the SOGO department store chain, as well as alter the land classification within Yang Ming Shan National Park to the benefit of funeral service firms.
Su Jia-chyuan, the uncle of Legislator Su Chen-ching, resigned from the post of secretary-general to the president on August 2.
August 2: Since July, there has been a spike in the number of additional coronavirus cases, a total of 26, including 15 from the Philippines plus a confirmed case of a Belgian wind power engineer. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung stated that Taiwan's border control will not be relaxed in the short term and announced that people must wear masks on elevators, exam preparatory schools, cinemas, study centers, karaoke studios, and other closed spaces.