A government official on Friday criticized the Foreign Ministry for refusing to issue a visa to allow former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui to visit Japan.

Kenzo Yoneda, a senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office and a Liberal Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives, complained during a Diet committee session that the Foreign Ministry had informed Lee through his agent Wednesday that it would not authorize a visa for him.

“In general, it is a self-evident truth that a former president who is now a private citizen is not a terrorist or a criminal,” Yoneda said at a morning session of the House of Representatives Cabinet Committee.

“I do not think there is a legal reason for Japan, as a democratic state, to refuse to issue a visa to this kind of person,” he said. “It can be said that (the Foreign Ministry) is deviating from the principles of democracy.”

Lee had applied for a visa through his agent Monday, saying the purpose of the visit was to give a speech at a meeting planned by a group of Keio University students in Tokyo as part of an annual student festival later this month.

But the university and the festival organizing committee reportedly told the Foreign Ministry they were not sponsoring any such meeting. Lee withdrew his application Tuesday.

However, Lee’s agent indicated that the former Taiwanese leader could reapply for a visa on other grounds. The Foreign Ministry then informed him it would not authorize any application, according to Senior Vice Foreign Minister Tetsuro Yano.

China had earlier reiterated a warning to Japan not to grant a visa to Lee for any reason after hearing reports that he was planning to speak at the university.

Yoneda said the plan for Lee to give the speech at the university should not have been canceled in a democracy such as Japan, which should be expected to guarantee freedom of speech and education.

In 1972, Japan switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, which regards the island as a renegade province.

Lee’s most recent trip to Japan was in April 2001 to undergo medical treatment in Okayama Prefecture. It was his first visit in 16 years.

It led to a protest from China, which postponed a planned visit to Japan by Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.