Former President Lee denies rumors of new political grouping

The China Post staff and CNA

Former President Lee Teng-hui has broken days of silence on rumors about him flexing muscles in the year-end elections, denying that he would form a political party. He said the rumors about the establishment of a so-called “Lee political group” were purely media speculations. He said that he was not trying to cut into the Kuomintang or Democratic Progressive Party vote, or to take away their support. The former KMT chairman was speaking to reporters on a flight to the U.S. about rumors t hat he was planning to set up a political party or consolidate a camp of legislators under his patronage to become a crucial bloc in the next Legislature.

He said that the domestic economic slump and political turbulence over the past year had made him worry that the hard-won democratic system he helped establish seemed to be collapsing. As “the problem lies in the parliament,” where the KMT retains a majority, he said he was willing to help young, and capable and honest people get elected in the upcoming legislative elections. He denied he was actively plotting a political maneuver, saying instead that “some people came to seek his help.” He did not identify them. Lee arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday for a two-day transit stop en route to Cornell University, his alma mater in Ithaca, New York. ROC Representative to the United States Chen Chien-jen greeted Lee at the airport. Upon arriving at his hotel in L.A. Lee was greeted by both supporters and protesters.

About 300 well-wishers turned out to show their support for Lee, while another 200 protesters shouted slogans claiming that Lee was “disrupting politics and destroying parties.”

Some of the protesters were overseas members of the KMT, students from Taiwan and even some mainland Chinese immigrants.

Meanwhile, three branches and a party service center of the KMT in the Western U.S. area jointly released an open letter to Lee, condemning his support of the DPP and urging him to continue to follow the teachings of his own party.

Lee, who earned a Ph.D. in agricultural economics in 1968 at Cornell, was scheduled to take a chartered plane to Ithaca Tuesday in the company of his wife, Tseng Wen-fui, and personal aides.

The primary event on his Ithaca itinerary is the dedication of a research center named after him. A ground-breaking ceremony for the Lee Teng-hui Institute for Scientific Research will be held on the Cornell campus Wednesday.

The Ivy-league university will use computer rendering to show what the finished center — to be dedicated to nano-technology research — will look like.

Cornell will also arrange for Lee to take a tour of its campus, where he last visited as ROC president and delivered a speech in June 1995.

Cornell President Hunter R. Rawlings III will host a dinner in Lee’s honor Wednesday. Lee is scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles from Ithaca on Thursday, meet with some of his supporters there, and conclude his visit on July 1, returning to Taipei on July 3.

Lee, who originally planned to visit his alma mater in early May, postponed his trip because he went to Japan to have minor heart surgery in late April.