TAIPEI, Taiwan - Former R.O.C. President Lee Teng-hui yesterday stated "being a slave for Japan is tragic," deflecting criticism he has incurred for saying he views Japan as his motherland.
"I was born and raised in Taiwan - and I have worked here; my feelings for Taiwan cannot be changed," Lee said. "Japan is considered an occupation regime. Being a Japanese slave is, in fact, tragic."
The former president made the remarks during a speech at an event held by Democracy Tautin, a group that participated in the Sunflower Movement in 2014.
Lee said many people have threatened to sue him over his declaration that he considered himself Japanese. The controversy originated over an interview with Lee that was published in the September issue of Voice, a Japanese-language magazine, in which Lee said he regarded himself as a citizen "fighting for the Japanese motherland."
He also said he regarded Taiwan and Japan as one country since Taiwan did not participate in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
During his speech, Lee mentioned that he made the comment "being a Taiwanese is tragic" during a conversation with Shiba Ryotaro, a Japanese author who passed away in 1996. Lee expressed his "regret" over making the statement during his speech.
Lee further stated that while he had the opportunity to do government work and to "even become president for 12 years," he emphasised that he had not actively pursued the opportunity - the chance to become president "was handed to him."
Discussing mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping's meeting with US President Barack Obama at the end of September, Lee said he was concerned about how the meeting would turn out. He feared that the US could pressure Taiwan into recognising the "1992 Consensus."
"I do not know whether Tsai would agree with that," Lee said, referring to the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen. "She might possibly not agree to that."
The former president also voiced anxiety during his speech, stating that should Tsai successfully become the next president, he "did not know what President Ma Ying-jeou would do" during the interim after the election and before Tsai officially takes office. The inauguration of the next president is scheduled for May 20 next year.