International community praises Lee Teng-hui (update)

07/31/2020 08:49 PM
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Photo courtesy of AIT
Photo courtesy of AIT

Taipei, July 31 (CNA) The international community on Thursday mourned the passing of Taiwan's former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who succumbed to multiple organ failure at the age of 97, lauding him for his role in leading Taiwan onto the path of democracy.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Thursday (EDT), offering his "sincere condolences" on Lee's passing on behalf of the American people.

His statement said that Lee, as Taiwan's first democratically elected president, helped put an end to decades of authoritarianism and ushered in a new era of economic prosperity, openness, and rule of law in Taiwan.

"During his 12-year tenure, Lee's bold reforms played a crucial role in transforming Taiwan into the beacon of democracy we see today. He cemented the deep friendship between the United States and Taiwan," the statement said.

The U.S. will honor President Lee's legacy by continuing to strengthen its bond with Taiwan and its vibrant democracy through shared political and economic values, the statement added.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo expressed his deep sorrow at Lee's death in short remarks in front of his official residence on Friday.

"President Lee is someone who had contributed significantly to Japan-Taiwan friendly relations," he said.

"President Lee had a special sentimental connection to Japan. He brought freedom, democracy, human rights and other universal values to Taiwan, and laid the foundation for Japan-Taiwan relations," he said, adding that many Japanese people felt a close affinity with Lee.

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy in the country, flew the U.S. national flag at half-mast and described Lee as a "reformer, partner, and friend of the United States."

"Taiwan's astonishing transition from martial law to full democratization in a little over a decade took place under President Lee's leadership, and forms the foundation of the U.S.-Taiwan partnership that has brought so much benefit to the Indo-Pacific region and the world," the AIT said in a statement on Friday.

The AIT also said President Lee's success in transforming Taiwan into a beacon of freedom and democracy, and in cementing the U.S.-Taiwan friendship, will be felt by many future generations.

Meanwhile, the British Office Taipei, United Kingdom's de facto embassy in Taiwan, issued a Facebook post, quoting a Foreign Office spokesperson as saying that the Foreign Office is saddened to learn of the death of Lee.

Lee is someone who "played a crucial role in Taiwan's transition from operating under martial law in the 1980s to a full democratic process in 1996," the spokesperson said.

"Dr. Lee should be credited for playing a big part in the vibrant democracy and society that Taiwan's people enjoy today," the spokesperson said.

The Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, the North American country's de facto embassy in Taiwan, praised Lee's leadership for Taiwan's rapid economic transformation during the early 1990s that cemented Taiwan's status as one of Asia's four tiger economies.

"We pay tribute to the achievements of Dr. Lee and the people of Taiwan in establishing a prosperous and democratic society based on universal values and the rule of law," it added.

The Australian Office in Taipei, Australia's de facto embassy in Taiwan, bade farewell to Lee in a Facebook post. "We are deeply saddened at the passing of Dr. Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan's first democratically elected leader," the office said.

"We honour his enormous contributions to Taiwan's democratisation, economic development and to human rights. This legacy lives on in the vibrant society that is Taiwan today," it further said.

The New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office Taipei, the de facto New Zealand embassy in Taiwan, said in a Facebook post that Lee "played a critical role in the democratization of Taiwan" and his passing will be deeply mourned.

The European Economic and Trade Office (EETO), also on Facebook, said Lee "played a pivotal role in Taiwan's transition from authoritarianism to a vibrant democracy rooted in the rule of law and the protection of human rights."

"His legacy will continue to inspire the people in Taiwan, Asia and the world," the EETO said.

The French Office in Taipei, the Netherlands Office Taipei, the Belgian Office Taipei and the Polish Office in Taipei also made similar statements in mourning Lee's passing and lauded his legacy in transforming Taiwan from an authoritarian regime into a democracy.

Eswatini, Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in Africa, said in a Twitter feed that Lee contributed in advancing Eswatini-Taiwan relations and lauded his life as one that was "spent in the service of the people."

The Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, in a press statement, recalled his two meetings with Lee and regarded him as a "personal friend" and "an ally of the Tibetan people."

"His contribution to Taiwan's democratic development was an exceptional achievement. Today, Taiwan is a vibrant and prosperous democracy with a rich cultural heritage," the press statement said, quoting Dalai Lama.

"Perhaps the best tribute we can pay him is to remember his courage and determination and emulate his dedication to democracy," the press statement said.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), as of Friday afternoon, a total of 206 political figures and institutions from 45 countries have expressed their condolences on the death of Lee, by issuing statements, writing letters, posting messages on social media or flying their flags at half-mast.

The MOFA said it sincerely thanked these friends from the international community for their comforting words.

(By Emerson Lim)

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