Saying he was deeply saddened over the passing of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday recalled Lee as a man of perseverance and strong willpower.
Wang, the nation’s longest-serving legislative speaker, had held the position for 17 years from 1999 to 2016.
Like Lee, Wang served as a Taiwan-born official to the KMT, which in the decades after 1949 saw its leadership dominated by Mainlanders who fled to Taiwan from China after their defeat in the Chinese Civil War.
In response to media queries to verify claims that he and Lee had once stood together in the rain for 10 minutes while attempting to visit then-National Assembly members who refused to meet them, Wang said it was true, and that Lee’s insistence at the time demonstrated his spirit of perseverance and willpower.
Lee cared very much about the country, Wang said, adding that the last time he saw the former president was short after Lee was in February admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
While Lee had initially expressed that he was looking forward to Wang’s visit, he was asleep when Wang arrived, and the two did not have the chance to talk, Wang said.
He recalled fondly the contributions Lee made to the development of democracy in Taiwan, which put the nation on firm ground, Wang said.
Lee had been responsible for six constitutional amendments that removed temporary clauses from the constitution and made the National Assembly obsolete, as well as making the premier an appointed position, he said.
In effect, this served as a complete reform of the legislature, and in 1992 a new democratic legislature emerged, he said.
Taiwan under Lee also joined APEC as a sovereign state, and Lee introduced allowances for elderly farmers, he said.
“Lee was both a politician and a strategist, and in terms of his thought processes, he stood out from the rest,” Wang said at his home in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District (路竹).
Wang recalled working with Lee at the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (now the Council of Agriculture) and watching Lee continuously rise in the ranks of government until he became president.
In 1992, Lee recommended Wang for the position of KMT caucus secretary-general, which he then held concurrently with the post of vice chairman of the KMT Central Policy Committee. During his time in these posts, he found it remarkable that Lee never interfered with the legislature, he said.
Lee had also wanted him to run for president, Wang said, but added that he never committed to the idea out of concerns over the KMT’s future.
Wang said he would be visiting Taipei tomorrow to pay his respects to Lee.
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