Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s first democratically elected president, died on July 30 at the age of 97. A video clip of Lee’s interview with the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) from 2015 was shared on Facebook two days after his death.
In the video, Lee commented on the relationship between China and Taiwan and said peace should be sought on the grounds that “China is China and Taiwan is Taiwan,” rejecting the Chinese Communist Party’s claim that Taiwan is a part of China.
In the same 2015 interview, Lee also mentioned Hong Kong and said the “one country, two systems” arrangement would not work for Taiwan.
The Facebook post by Hsu Lung-chun, director of the Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies, made headlines across Taiwan. In his post, Hsu claimed the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe pressured NHK to shelve the interview in response to the Chinese government’s objection at the time. Hsu indicated that the clip was aired after five years because of Lee’s passing.
Media outlets like Apply Daily (Taiwan), Formosa Television, NowNews, Central News Agency (CNA) and others reported his claim although CNA later deleted the article. Liberty Times originally included the claim but updated its article by removing the claim without disclosing their reasons for doing so.
Annie Lab looked into the claim and found that the interview footage had not been shelved. It was partially aired in 2015, contrary to the claim. We also found no evidence of editorial interference and concluded it was unlikely because the footage used on-air five years ago did touch upon politically sensitive issues concerning China.
The broadcast record by NHK retrieved through the Factiva database shows a portion of the interview in question was aired on July 30, 2015, during a nightly news program on the public broadcaster’s BS1 satellite channel.
Out of the eight-minute-long interview, about one minute was used in which Lee discussed the economic and technological collaboration between Japan and Taiwan, China’s military advancement in the South China Sea and the controversial Senkaku/Diaoyu islands over which both China and Japan claim sovereignty.
A source at NHK confirmed to Annie Lab that the content and length of the interview used on-air matched with the description in the program record retrieved from the database.
The part of the interview in which Lee talked about Taiwan’s independent status was not used in 2015 and aired for the first time this year on July 31, a day after Lee’s death, as suggested by Hsu in his Facebook post.
However, the full transcript of NHK’s interview was translated into Chinese and made available publicly in Taiwan in 2016 by a magazine called Democratic Visions, a publication by a political foundation linked to Lee.
The 12-page-long feature included Lee’s comment that the cross-strait peace “should be sought on the ground that China is China and Taiwan is Taiwan,” as well as his dismissal of the one country, two systems [translation by Annie Lab].
Lee was often hailed as Taiwan’s “father of democracy” and maintained Taiwan was a sovereign nation throughout his political career.
In 1999, while he was still the president of Taiwan, he described the relationship between China and Taiwan as “a special state-to-state relationship.”