Hospital rebuts Lee Teng-hui death rumors

CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taipei Veterans General Hospital (TVGH) on Wednesday rebutted speculation that former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) died a day earlier, saying he was weak but receiving treatment.

TVGH said the 97-year old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, but added that if there were any changes in the former president’s condition, it would make those public.

The comments came after rumors emerged online Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. No sooner had the unsubstantiated rumors emerged than reporters flocked to the hospital seeking confirmation.

Lee was admitted to TVGH on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking milk too quickly. The ex-president was diagnosed with pulmonary infiltration and has been intubated since then.

TVGH has been tight-lipped about Lee’s condition since February, but speculation has been rife that his health has deteriorated in recent months.

A hospital source told CNA that Lee’s health has been unstable for a long time, and his condition could change for the worse at any time.

The source admitted that Lee’s condition has grown more unstable recently but said that his medical team is providing the care necessary to keep his issues in check.

Before TVGH issued its statement, the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), which Lee founded, dismissed rumors of Lee’s death in a post on the party’s Facebook page.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) went to TVGH to see Lee on Wednesday morning.

Born under Japanese colonial rule, Lee was educated in Japan and the United States and cultivated as the successor to Kuomintang (KMT) President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), and the life he led in many ways reflected the competing powers and influences that held sway in Taiwan over the course of the 20th century.

Later in life, he became a prominent advocate for Taiwanese identity and statehood, founding the TSU — an act for which he was expelled from the KMT — and lending support to his one-time rivals in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).