By Stephanie Chao, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Tributes have been paid to former Vice President Lee Yuan-tsu (李元簇), who has died at the age of 94 after a long fight with kidney disease. Li, vice president between 1990 and 1996 under President Lee Teng-hui, died with his family by his side at his residence in Toufen, Miaoli at 4:15 a.m., Wednesday, according to reports. Lee had been undergoing dialysis and had been unable to eat, his former aide Chen Jin-ding told the Central News Agency. The head of Lee’s medical team, Chuang Chi-kuang told reporters that Lee had recently refused treatment, saying the former vice president had stated his wish to die with dignity. Lee was well known for his commitment to justice reform, as well as his efforts to increase awareness of human rights and revamp Taiwan’s prison infrastructure and prosecution system. Born to a Hakka family in mainland China’s Hunan Province in 1923, he graduated from the then-Nanjing-based Chengchi University with a degree in law and politics in 1946.

He took first place in the Republic of China’s nationwide judicial test the same year and served as a judge at local district courts in Lanzhou and in Northwest China. While serving as a judge, he also worked concurrently as a reporter for the Qingdao Daily. Lee came to Taiwan with the retreating Nationalist army in 1949 and obtained his PhD from the University of Bonn in 1963. He entered politics in 1969, taking up the post of legal consultant with the Ministry of Defense.

He would go on to serve in a number of government positions, including as justice minister, secretary-general of the Presidential Office and minister of education, before becoming the last vice president elected via the national assembly — as well as the last mainlander to hold the position — in 1990. After stepping down in 1996, Lee moved to Toufen, where he removed himself from Taiwan’s political scene entirely, staying out of the public eye until his death. His reserved nature and reputation as a low-profile figure saw him nicknamed “the silent vice president.”

Chen said Lee had always been a low-key person and hoped that after his death, his legacy would be handled in the same way.