National / Politics

Ex-Taiwan President Lee, 92, gives first speech on Diet premises, hits Taipei power grab

Kyodo

Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui gave his first speech on the Diet premises on Wednesday, conveying a message about Taiwan’s democratization and criticizing the current government of Taiwan for becoming too powerful.

Lee, 92, is in Japan on his seventh visit since he left office in 2000 but it was his first time to give a lecture at a building of the Diet.

About 400 parliamentarians from the ruling and opposition parties, including education minister Hakubun Shimomura, attended. Political observers say speaking before lawmakers, including an incumbent minister, could irritate China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

China has regularly criticized Japan for granting Lee visas to visit as it considers him a pro-independence figure.

Lee, when he was still in power in 1999, angered China when he redefined cross-strait ties as a “special state-to-state relationship.” Taiwan’s first directly elected president, Lee was in power from January 1988 to May 2000.

During his talk about Taiwan’s democratization in the House of Representatives’ office building in central Tokyo, Lee said, “I can never agree to what China has repeatedly been saying about the ‘one-China’ (principle) or that Taiwan is part of China.”

Taking aim at the current leadership of Taiwan, Lee said the government under President Ma Ying-jeou, which has been fast pursuing China-friendly policies after Ma came to office in 2008, is becoming too powerful and pointed to last year’s student-led protests as evidence of that.

Dubbed the Sunflower Movement, the protests crippled Taiwan’s legislature and forced the Ma administration to abandon plans to use its majority to fast-track legislation on a service trade agreement with China.

“The government is not pursuing what is in the interests of the state or the people but only what will benefit the party,” Lee said, noting the democracy that was promoted during his leadership is “reaching a breaking point.”

Lee is scheduled to visit the Tohoku region during his six-day visit through Sunday.