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Former vice president dies aged 93 (update)

2017/03/08 19:04:53

Taipei, March 8 (CNA) Lee Yuan-tsu (李元簇), who served as vice president under Lee Teng-hui (李登輝, no relation), died at the age of 93 at his home in Miaoli County on Wednesday following a long battle with kidney disease.

Lee had not eaten for more than 10 days prior to his death, surviving only on nutrient supplements, Chen Chin-ting (陳進丁), a close family friend and former house steward, told CNA that day.

Lee passed away peacefully at 4:15 a.m., with his family by his side, said Chen, leader of the Coast Guard Administration's Taoyuan Reconnaissance Brigade.

Lee, a member of the Kuomintang (KMT), was the eighth vice president of the Republic of China from 1990 to 1996.

He previously served as a judge, president of National Chengchi University, education minister, justice minister and secretary-general to the president.

After retiring in 1996, the politician, who was born in China's Hunan Province, settled in Miaoli County's Toufen City, where he led a low-key life away from the public spotlight.

On Wednesday, politicians from across party lines praised Lee for his contributions and character.

In a statement, Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) touted Lee's extensive knowledge in the legal field and said the former vice president had assisted then-President Lee Teng-hui in pushing for constitutional reform and laying the foundation for Taiwan's democratization.

Hu Wen-chi (胡文琦), deputy chair of the KMT's Culture and Communications Committee, expressed his party's condolences to Lee's family, while the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) praised Lee for his "authentic and noble character" and for his thrift and simple lifestyle after retirement.

"Lee Yuan-tsu was the most voiceless vice president of the ROC in the past 30 years, but he was the one who made the greatest contributions," said People First Party Chairman (PFP) James Soong (宋楚瑜), who had worked alongside Lee.

For example, Lee was an important force behind the amendment of the Constitution in 1991, Soong noted.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Lee Teng-hui also expressed their condolences to Lee's family and said they have instructed relevant government agencies and the Lee Teng-hui Foundation to assist the family in funeral arrangements, according to officials.

Lee's ascension to the vice presidency was closely related to power struggles within the KMT following the death of former President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) in 1988.

After Chiang's death, Lee Teng-hui, who was seen as representing the party's mainstream in support of reform, sought to find a vice president who was outside the power circle, had a low profile and had no ambitions to run for the presidency.

Lee Yuan-tsu, who was often dubbed "the vice president without a voice," was said to have been chosen for the position because he matched the necessary criteria and because his background in law meant that he could be a force in pushing for constitutional and legal reforms at the time.

Lee maintained a low profile during his term as vice president, but he wasn't always the silent type.

When he served as education minister from 1977-1978 and justice minister from 1978-1984, Lee was known as being bold, sharp-tongued and authoritative.

(By Kuan Jui-ping, Wang Cheng-chung and Christie Chen)
ENDITEM/ AW/J