Beijing, Jul 30 (efe-epa).- Taiwan’s first democratically elected president Lee Teng-hui died on Thursday at the age of 97 after a long illness.
Lee died from a multi-organ failure after 19:00 local time (11:00 GMT) after being admitted to the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei in February with pneumonia, according to the state-owned Taiwanese CNA or Central News Agency.
The politician ruled the island for 12 years after he took office in 1988 when he replaced the late Chiang Ching-kuo, whom he served as a vice president.
In 1996 he became the first Taiwanese president elected by a universal and direct vote and oversaw the island’s transition to full democracy.
Speaking at Cornell University in the United States in 1995 he said: “The people are in my heart every moment of the day.”
Leader of today’s opposition Nationalist Party, also called Kuomintang, the “Godfather of Taiwan secessionism” continued to support the process of independence of the island, considered by Beijing as a rebel province.
Taiwanese MP Wang Ting-yu paid tribute to the politician on Twitter: “As the 1st democratically-elected President of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui played a key role in Taiwan’s democratisation and demonstrated remarkable leadership during an era of upheaval.
“His legacy will continue to inspire us, I send my most heartfelt condolences to his family.”
Lee was expelled from office after a defeat in 2000 elections and took part in the launch of the Taiwan Solidarity Union party, which is close to the now-ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
In recent years, the former president faced a judicial process for corruption after he was accused of misusing $7.8 million of public funds in 1994 to strengthen diplomatic ties with South Africa, of which he was ultimately acquitted.