Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui was a pivotal figure in Taiwan’s transition from a police state to a full-fledged democratic country. He stood up against the Chinese Communist regime throughout his career and openly criticized one-belt-one-road for CCP’s global hegemony.
During his 12 years in office, Lee spearheaded political reforms, culminating in Taiwan’s first direct presidential election. As Taiwan’s first native-born leader, Lee had been an outspoken advocate for Taiwan’s development & democracy, which earned him the title “Mr. Democracy”.
Lee became the president of Taiwan on Jan. 13, 1988 as a successor of Chiang Ching-kuo. From that very moment, Lee started working on an enormous task: reforming Taiwan.
After securing a second term in 1990, Lee faced his first challenge. That year, just before his inauguration, the weeklong Wild Lily student protests took off in Taipei. Lee agreed to convene a national affairs conference with non-governmental organizations to spur reform in Taiwan. Lee also kicked off a series of amendments to the Constitution.
In March 1991, the Executive Yuan adopted the Guidelines for National Unification, which, among other issues, highlighted that any unification of Taiwan and China should first respect the rights and interests of the Taiwanese.
Later, in April, the National Assembly abolished the Temporary Provisions against the Communist Rebellion, which had been enacted in 1948 to establish martial law in Taiwan. Not long after, the first steps were taken to abolish the National Assembly and transfer its powers to the Legislative Yuan. First, the National Assembly held direct elections, with legislative elections following in 1992. That year, the Constitution was further revised to instate direct presidential elections instead of the assembly electing a leader.
In 1995, Lee visited his U.S. alma mater, Cornell University, where he gave a commencement speech titled “Always in My Heart.” That was the first time he publicly referred to Taiwan as “The Republic of China on Taiwan”. That, together with policies restricting direct contact between Taiwan and China spurred censure from Beijing. But it also boosted Lee’s popularity in Taiwan.
In 1996, Lee won Taiwan”s first direct presidential election with 54% of the vote. While in office, he spearheaded six constitutional amendments, conducted complete reelection of the national legislature, and institutionalized direct elections for Taiwan”s provincial governor and president.
He took a step further in 1999, defining cross-strait relations as a “special state-to-state relationship.” Lee Teng-hui (July 1999) Former president The relationship between the two sides of the strait is a special relationship. It’s a special state-to-state relationship.
Lee was succeeded in the year 2000 by the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian, marking the end of 55 years of KMT rule and Taiwan’s first transition of power.
After stepping down as president, Lee founded the Taiwan Solidarity Union and continued striving to protect Taiwan’s democracy. His efforts earned him the title “Mr. Democracy” on the cover of U.S. magazine Newsweek in 1996.