Former Taiwan President Lee Teng Hui, the island’s first president, died in Taipei on Thursday at the age of 97, the official news agency CNA reported.
Lee had suffered from several health problems in recent years that kept him out of public life. On February 8, he was hospitalized in Taipei drinking milk. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and intubated for five months. The hospital has reported multi-organ failure.
Born during the Japanese occupation, he was educated between Japan and the United States. Under the patronage of the then President of Taiwan, Chian Ching Kuo, he became mayor of Taipei and eventually succeeded him.
He ruled the island between 1988 and 2000, during which time he oversaw the “democratization” of Taiwan, CNA noted. “The world will remember him as Mr. Democracy,” the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter.
The current president, Tsai Ing Wen, also expressed her sadness over Lee’s death and highlighted her contribution to Taiwanese democracy. In this sense, he has stated that his death is a national loss.