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Former President Lee's visit to the United States

Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui visited the United States from October 12 through 22nd 2005, first stopping off in Alaska and New York City, and then proceeding to Washington DC, where he stayed from October 17th through October 20th. He then proceeded to Los Angeles and returned to Taiwan on October 22nd. This visit is both historic and significant, for it is President Lee’s first visit to Washington DC since he became the president of Taiwan in 1988.

During his visit, President Lee addressed a number of distinguished audiences. Here are some of his statements:

Here are the welcoming remarks made by members of Congress at the Congressional reception in the US Capitol.

Below we also present links to press reports and commentaries in the international press, followed by background to the visit.

Overview of press reports and commentaries


Background and significance

During his 12-year-presidency, President Lee was not allowed to visit Washington, DC due to the self-imposed restrictions by the United States government.

In 1995, during his presidency, President Lee embarked his first trip to the United States as the President of Taiwan and visited his alma mater Cornell University, prompting protests and missile firings by China into the waters near Taiwan. In spite of China’s threats and intimidations, Mr. Lee was re-elected President with an overwhelming majority in Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996.

Rekindling old friendships

The main purpose of President Lee’s visit to Washington is to rekindle his friendship with old friends, both in the United States Congress, academia, the business community and the Taiwanese-American community.

Mr. Lee – often dubbed “Mr. Democracy” in Taiwan -- is generally considered the father of Taiwan’s transition to democracy. During his presidency (1988-2000), Taiwan moved from an authoritarian one-party regime under the Chinese Kuomintang regime, to a free and open democracy under the present Democratic Progressive Party government of President Chen Shui-bian, which is representative of the native Taiwanese majority (85% of the population) on the island. The election of President Chen and the peaceful transfer of power in 2000 was the culmination of Taiwan’s transition towards a full-fledged democracy.

Inspired by American democracy

During an interview with Newsweek magazine in 1996, President Lee revealed that he was inspired by American democracy during his student years at Cornell University during the 1960s. He said while referring to the turbulent 60s, “There was chaos but still democracy. I realized you must use democracy to improve society… The majority used the democratic system to improve the social order.”

Thus, his visit of the ultimate symbol of American democracy – Washington, DC, a city that embodies the universal spirit of human rights, freedom and democracy, will fulfill his long admiration for American democracy.

President Lee is expected to meet with Members of Congress, thinktank scholars and other international friends of Taiwan, to convey his appreciations for their long time support for Taiwan and exchange ideas and opinions on the contemporary international affairs.

Support for a fragile democracy

As a former statesman who led his country during the most brazen display of Chinese military threats, the 1995 and 1996 missiles crisis, President Lee will also emphasize how recent and fragile Taiwan’s democracy still is, and urge the United States to stand firmly by its democratic ally in the region, help strengthen the democracy and freedom by supporting the democratic forces.

He will especially highlight the rise of Chinese military power and the impacts and threats such rise will bring to the regional and global security environment and the American strategic interests. He will appeal to the United States and the international community not to ignore the attempts of Chinese authoritarian regime to absorb democratic Taiwan and help preserve democracy on Taiwan.

Normalizing Taiwan's international relations

President Lee will urge the US to help end Taiwan’s isolation in the international community, assist the island in normalizing its relations with countries around the world, and become a full and equal member of the international community.

President Lee will also emphasize during his visit that Taiwan is striving for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, while China is threatening its small neighbor with missiles and military annexation. He will urge the United States and other Western nations not to let an un-democratic China threaten and bully a small democratic neighbor. He will stress that if Taiwan’s democracy is to be preserved, it is essential for the US to stand up for human rights and democracy in East Asia.