Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui passes away at age 97

Lee elected president of Taiwan in country's first presidential election in 1996

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Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui

Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taipei Veterans General Hospital said on Thursday that former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who had been hospitalized there for nearly half a year, passed away at 7:24 p.m. at the age of 97.

Born in 1923, Lee grew up to become the first directly-elected president of Taiwan in 1996. Hailed as a trailblazer in Taiwan’s burgeoning democracy, Lee, who held a doctorate from Cornell University in the U.S., was elected as the 7th vice president of Taiwan in 1984; he became the 7th president of Taiwan in January 1988 after the death of former President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).

In March 1990 Lee was elected as Taiwan’s 8th president by the country’s now abolished National Assembly. In March 1996 Taiwan held its first direct presidential election, and Lee was elected as the 9th president; he held the position until May 19, 2000, when his term expired.

The former president had been hospitalized since February 8 of this year, suffering a series of illnesses that began when he choked on a beverage and which led to his eventual death today from organ failure.