Under fire: Former President of Taiwan Lee Teng-hui. Photo: EPA
Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui is under fire for referring to Japan as the motherland and dismissing the administration’s efforts to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war as an attempt to curry favour with mainland China.
“Seventy years ago, Taiwan [then a Japanese colony] and Japan were of one country,” he said in a Japanese magazine. “Taiwanese people at the time were no doubt Japanese subjects and they did what they could to fight for their motherland.”
The 92-year-old Lee, who joined the Japanese military before the war along with his brother who later died on the battlefield, said it was not true that Taiwan participated in mainland China’s eight-year war of resistance against the Japanese.
Lee criticised the series of events organised by the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the war’s end, saying they were meant to “harass Japan and curry favour [with mainland] China.”
Lee, whose remarks were published in the latest issue of Japanese monthlyVoice, has since received sharp criticism, including from Ma.
Expressing regret and shock, Ma demanded that Lee retract his remarks and apologise to the Taiwanese public.
“How can a person who was president of this country for 12 years and still enjoys presidential treatment as a retired president say something that sells out Taiwan, humiliates its people and embarrasses himself?” he said.
Hung Hsiu-chu, deputy legislative speaker and presidential candidate of the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT), urged the Taiwanese public to “condemn Lee both in speech and in writing”.
“It proves I was right when I asked the party to expel him many years ago,” she said.
Lee headed the KMT from 1988 to 2000 and was expelled from the party after he left office for supporting a pro-independence alliance.
Another presidential hopeful, People First Party Chairman James Soong Chu-yu, urged Lee to exercise prudence because he had served as president of the country.
Apart from describing Japan as the motherland, Lee dismissed the existence of the so-called “1992 consensus”, a purported agreement between the KMT and the Communist Party of China that there is only one China with each retaining its own interpretation of what “one China” means.
Presidential Office Spokesman Charles Chen urged Lee to avoid denying his own words and deeds as the consensus was reached when Lee was president.
Simply put, the reference was approved by Lee and not fabricated by then Mainland Affairs Council Minister Su Chi as Lee had asserted, Chen said.
Likening the reference to a computer password, MAC Minister Andrew Hsia said, “As long as the next government continues to use the password, it does not need to search for a new one.”
Neither the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party nor its presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen recognise the so-called “1992 consensus,” which Ma and his party consider to form the basis of cross-strait negotiations and agreements.
Despite Tsai’s promise “to maintain the status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, the KMT and Beijing have asked Tsai to clarify the proposal and specify how she plans to achieve the goal.