Politicians and dignitaries, including former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Brent Christensen, yesterday paid their respects to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who died on Thursday at 97, at a memorial at the Taipei Guest House.
Chen left a note on a memorial wall that read: “The spirit of Taiwan’s father of democracy lives on,” before telling reporters that despite their different political affiliations, he and Lee shared a desire to build a Taiwanese national identity, deepen and consolidate Taiwan’s democracy, safeguard national sovereignty and improve the well-being of Taiwanese.
Although there had been competition and contradictions in their relationship, there was also much agreement and consensus, he said.
He also voiced his appreciation for and admiration of Lee’s lifetime of devotion and his many contributions to Taiwan.
Christensen, who was accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), left a message offering condolences to the people of Taiwan on behalf of the AIT.
As a defender of democracy, Lee played a key role in Taiwan’s transition to a democratic government, Christensen’s message read, adding that his courage and vision would be long remembered by people around the world.
He praised Lee as a great hero in Taiwan’s transition to democracy, saying that the reforms Lee promoted have been successful in transforming Taiwan into a beacon of freedom and democracy.
The US would continue to strengthen its relationship with Taiwan, which is based on shared democratic values to honor Lee’s political legacy, Christensen added.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) left a message on the memorial wall that simply read: “Taiwan keeps going.”
Lee was a man of courage and wisdom, whose greatest contribution was allowing Taiwan to be democratized at a low cost, Ko told reporters.
Others who attended the memorial yesterday included Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) and former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
The memorial is open from 10am to 5pm until Aug. 16.
In Tokyo, former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and House of Representatives member Nobuo Kishi — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s younger brother — attended a public memorial for Lee at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) after it opened at noon. Memorials have also been set up at the TECRO branch offices in Osaka, and the Okinawan capital of Naha.
The Taiwanese baseball community also paid tribute to Lee over the weekend at two CPBL games with a minute of silence.
The ballparks flew flags at half-mast, and displayed an image of Lee on their screens with his famous criterion for serving: “Do it with people in my heart.”
Efforts by major firms to establish professional baseball began during Lee’s presidency, with the CPBL being incorporated in 1989 and playing its first season in 1990.
Sports historians said that Lee had provided much support for developing and sustaining Taiwanese professional baseball.
He was the only president who was a guest for the ceremonial first pitches for the CPBL and the Taiwan Major League, which operated from 1996 to 2003.
Lee attended the 1990 CPBL All-Star Game and threw the first pitch to open the 1992 and 1997 seasons, as well as for the opener at the 1996 Taiwan-Japan baseball series.
Additional reporting by Jason Pan and Lee I-chia
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