Taiwan’s former President Lee Teng-hui is facing criticism from all sides after a recent interview in which he called Japan “the motherland” and dismissed the current Taiwanese administration’s efforts to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II as nothing more than an attempt to “curry favor [with mainland] China.”
The 92-year-old former KMT Chairman told a Japanese magazine that it was simply not true that Taiwan took up arms in mainland China’s eight-year long war against the Japanese invaders.
“Seventy years ago, Taiwan and Japan were of one country,” he said. “Taiwanese people at the time were no doubt Japanese subjects and they did what they could to fight for their motherland.”
Therefore, Lee blasted current President Ma Ying-jeou’s policies as deliberate harassment of Japan and shameless sucking up to mainland China.
“Taiwan and Japan were one nation,” he said. “As long as they were the same nation, it is certainly not true [for Ma] to say that Taiwan fought in the resistance war against Japan.”
Sometimes called the “father of Taiwan’s democracy,” Lee volunteered for service in the Imperial Japanese Army in 1944, becoming a second lieutenant officer of an anti-aircraft gun in Taiwan. His older brother died while serving in the Japanese Navy and is interred at the Yasukuni shrine
Lee headed the KMT from 1988 to 2000, but was expelled from the party in 2001 for supporting a pro-independence alliance. Since his presidency, he has parted ways with his former party, going so far as to publicly support changing Taiwan’s official name from the Republic of China to the Republic of Taiwan.
Not surprisingly, President Ma, has expressed shock and regret over Lee’s latest pro-Japan statements saying that the former president is “betraying Taiwan.” According to the SCMP, he has demanded that Lee retract his remarks and make a formal apology 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.
Meanwhile, Hung Hsiu-chu, current deputy legislative speaker and KMT presidential candidate said the remarks made her “hot under the collar.” According to the Taipei Times, she called on “all of society” to carry out both “oral and written denunciations,” against Lee.
“It proves I was right when I asked the party to expel him many years ago,” she said.
Lee’s remarks may just cost him his retirement benefits. Want China Times reports that KMT lawmakers also want to revoke Lee’s privileges as a former head of state following his hurtful comments.
Despite his pro-independence stance, Lee seems to have done much now to bring China and Taiwan closer together. China’s Taiwan affairs authority released a statement on Friday to criticize the former Taiwan leader’s “absurd remarks” such as the notion that “Taiwan and Japan were the same country.”
“These absurd remarks have seriously distorted the facts and blurred out the important contributions made by the Taiwanese compatriots to the victory of the war against the Japanese invaders,” read the statement from the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.
Ominously, the statement added that “traitors will never meet a good end.”
The Global Times also released a scathing editorial calling Lee’s remarks “absurd” and adding that they have “infuriated the Communist Party.” He probably isn’t too broken up about that.
As if all that somehow wasn’t enough, Lee also found the time to troll both sides of the strait a little more. He dismissed the existence of the 1992 consensus, in which semi-official PRC and ROC representatives met to recognize that there is only “one China,” but of course each side could have their own vastly different interpretation of what exactly that means.
The consensus was purportedly reached while Lee was president.