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Lee Teng-hui a special breed of politician much admired in Japan

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Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, who died July 30 aged 97, left an indelible mark on history by leading the peaceful transformation of Taiwan from an island under authoritarian rule to a vibrant and prosperous democracy.

China's emergence as a huge threatening power that shuns democracy makes Taiwan's continuing quest to maintain its freedom ever more important.

In the late 1980s, Lee became the first native Taiwanese president even though he was a member of the the Nationalist Party, known as the Kuomintang, or KMT, which was led by people born on the mainland and ruled the island with an iron fist.

As president, Lee vigorously promoted political freedom and pushed through legislative reform to ensure democratic representation, paving the way for the first popular vote to elect the president.

Some observers may argue that Lee used political reform as a means to secure the support of the United States and win the power struggle at home.

But there is no denying that he displayed amazing political prowess by accurately reading the trend in........

© The Asahi Shimbun