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For Lee Teng-hui, it was 'better not to be involved in politics'

Taiwan's president confronted Kuomintang, driving out influential mainlanders

Lee Teng-hui, left, toasts his victory in Taiwan's first direct presidential election in 1996.    © Reuters

TOKYO -- Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan's former president who died Thursday at the age of 97, once called the island's long-ruling Kuomintang, or the Chinese Nationalist Party government a non-native administration, lamenting the "woe of those born as Taiwanese." After losing a civil war with the Chinese Communist Party, the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan and installed a dictatorship. Key positions in the party, military and media were occupied by those from the mainland. The native Taiwanese, who accounted for more than 80% of the population, were shut out of power.

Taiwan native Lee, who was repulsed by the Kuomintang dictatorship, once told me that he flirted with communism when young. While hiding his objection to rule by mainlanders, he moved up the political ladder in the Kuomintang government.

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