Associated Press

Taiwan leader warns United States on China

Saturday October 22, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui on Friday issued a sobering warning to the United States and other democratic nations, saying to "tolerate China's oppression at home and military adventures abroad" could lead to global disaster.

Lee, credited with bringing democracy to Taiwan in the late 1990s, said "free nations must remain on the alert" as China grows in economic strength.

"Free nations must develop and strengthen their global and regional cooperation in both supporting the people of China in their struggle for freedom and democracy as well as taking measures to stop Chinese acts of oppression and aggression," Lee said in prepared remarks.

Lee spoke before an invited crowd of about 100 people and 40 reporters at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The event was sponsored by the Formosa Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to democracy in Taiwan.

Lee said a double standard exists regarding treatment of China and that of the former Soviet Union.

"People in the West believed that Soviet human rights violations and threats to neighboring countries should be stopped," Lee said. "But they believe that China's violations of human rights and threats to neighboring countries are 'special Chinese characteristics' that can be tolerated."

Lee said Taiwan, which sits 100 miles across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China, faces internal and external struggles.

"The progress of Taiwan's democracy is being hindered both by her threats from China and internally by the remnants of the Chinese foreign power that once ruled Taiwan," he said.

The self-ruled island split from the mainland in 1949 after Mao Zedong's communists forces defeated Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan.

Lee rose to president as a member of the Nationalists, but later held the first democratic election in Taiwan.

China protested Lee's current trip to the United States, filing objections with the State Department. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy said Thursday that Lee was solely interested in spreading ''secessionist theories.''

A 1995 visit to the United States by Lee sparked a fierce reaction from China, which staged threatening war games and lobbed missiles into nearby waters upon his return to the island.

China has been seeking to isolate current Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, whose Democratic Progressive Party favors formal independence -- a step Beijing has said it will use military force to quash.

In his remarks, Lee twice quoted statements made by President Bush regarding the United States' commitment to democracy around the world.

''Taiwan's freedom depends on the people of Taiwan to protect it. But the people of Taiwan need the support of the U.S. and other free peoples,'' Lee said.