Lee was the first president of Taiwan to have been born on the island

He had been in hospital since February

Taiwan’s former president Lee Teng-hui died on Thursday after spending the past five months in hospital in Taipei. He was 97.

Lee was admitted to the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in February after choking while drinking milk too quickly and had been intubated to help him breathe.

The former leader was diabetic and had a history of high blood pressure and heart problems. The hospital gave the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure.

Lee’s health had been deteriorating for several days, and on Wednesday, he was visited by Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen, her deputy William Lai and Premier Su Cheng-chang.

Lee was the first president of the Republic of China – Taiwan’s official name – to be born on the island.

During his time as leader, between 1988 and 2000, he oversaw the end of martial law and the “white terror” period, and the island’s democratisation. He also led an ambitious foreign policy to increase Taiwan’s presence on the world stage.

Soon after stepping down as president in 2000, he was expelled from the Kuomintang – of which he had been chairman – for his role in founding the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union and his support for the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, which is now the island’s ruling party.

Lee is survived by his wife, Tseng Wen-hui, two daughters, Anna and Annie Lee, and four grandchildren. His son, Lee Hsien-wen, died of cancer in 1982 at the age of 32.

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