In Robyn Lim’s June 2 article, “Lee should avoid Yasukuni,” Lim grudgingly admits that, as a private citizen, former Taiwanese President Lee Tung-hui is free to visit Japan and has a right to religious freedom, which includes paying a visit to Yasukuni Shrine (Lee did visit the shrine June 7). Yet she makes the ridiculous claim that by doing so Lee would “provoke” China and somehow drag both Japan and the United States into war.

Japan is a democratic society, is it not? Therefore, shouldn’t Lee be extended the same courtesies and privileges as any other visitor to Japan? If other foreign tourists can visit Yasukuni, why can’t Lee?

Lim is afraid that Lee will say something that will promote “independence” for Taiwan and thus “anger” China. If that’s the case, then the Chinese government needs to understand that in a democracy like Japan, people are free to express their opinions, even those who are visiting from abroad. What right does China have to dictate whom the Japanese government should allow into Japan, and under what restrictions?

Lim seems concerned about “de jure” independence for Taiwan. Setting aside China’s dubious historical and legal claims to Taiwan, the fact is, the Republic of China (Taiwan) has been a sovereign state since 1949 and is recognized as such by 25 nations around the world. Taiwan maintains unofficial relations with many other countries, including Japan and the U.S.

Lim paints a picture of Lee as a rabble-rouser, but neglects to point out that as president, Lee oversaw the transformation of Taiwan from a state run by an authoritarian regime into one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies. In 1996, Lee became the first freely elected leader in the history of a Chinese state. No wonder Beijing feels threatened by him. It’s harder to understand Lim’s motivations.

james boyden