by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Commenting on Tainan City Mayor William Lai’s support for Taiwan Independence, former President Lee Teng-hui said Friday that he had never said Taiwan should become independent, because it already was.
During a question-and-answer session at the Tainan City Council Wednesday, Lai repeated several times that he favored Taiwan Independence, inciting suspicions that his views differed from those of Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, who has been emphasizing the status quo in cross-straits relations.
In an appearance on a radio show Friday, Lee said he had no comments on Lai’s opinions, but the key issue was how to maintain relations with China. If Taiwan wanted to declare independence, China might send over troops to take the island militarily, the former president said.
Lee said he had never said that Taiwan needed to declare independence, for the reason that it already was independent.
The day before, Tsai said that Lai had only been responding to a question from a local politician, and that his emphasis was on harmonious relations between Taiwan and China. In addition to advocating Taiwan Independence, the mayor of Tainan had also said it did not necessarily have to lead to military confrontation. He also rejected allegations that his comments would harm Chinese tourism to his city, and emphasized he had met several Chinese delegations, but behind closed doors, upon their request.
Lai has been mentioned as a potential running mate for Tsai in the January 16 election, while earlier on, before Tsai’s position became unassailable, some inside the DPP tried to push him as the presidential candidate instead.