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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Taiwan's KMT expels former president
Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui
Mr Lee was Taiwan's first directly-elected president
By BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui has been expelled by the Kuomintang (KMT) Party which he led for more than 12 years.

The party's disciplinary committee said Mr Lee had maliciously harmed the party by campaigning for a rival political grouping.

Mr Lee has accused his former colleagues of getting too close to mainland China.

KMT milestones
1949 - Kuomintang government established
Founding President Chiang Kai-shek dies
1988 - Lee Teng-hui becomes first native President of Taiwan and KMT leader
1996 - Lee wins first democratic elections
2000 - KMT loses election and Lee steps down as party chairman
Lee Teng-hui expelled from KMT
The expulsion could lead to a major realignment in Taiwanese politics ahead of key parliamentary elections later this year, and some fear it could increase ethnic divisions.

Though he stood down as president last year, Lee Teng-hui remains one of Taiwan's most influential political figures. His expulsion from the KMT is likely to deepen already bitter political divisions on the island.

Mr Lee introduced democracy to Taiwan after decades of one party rule; he was also the first native Taiwanese to lead the KMT - which ruled mainland China until losing a civil war to the communists in 1949.

His background played a key role in winning local support for a party which many Taiwanese had regarded as an alien organisation.

Election defeat

Yet many KMT traditionalists accused Mr Lee of abandoning the party's goal of seeking reunification with the mainland. Some left the party, splitting its vote in presidential elections last year, when Mr Lee retired.

This led to the KMT losing power in Taiwan after half a century - and many party loyalists blamed Lee Teng-hui.

But his personal popularity made the KMT reluctant to expel him.

In recent months though he has campaigned openly for a new political grouping - the Taiwan Solidarity Union - ahead of parliamentary elections in December. He has also accused the KMT's new leaders of betraying Taiwan by getting too close to China.

Political and ethnic divisions

Analysts say his expulsion could lead some KMT members to quit the party in sympathy. But it may also encourage supporters of closer ties with China to renew their links with the party.

This could lead to a re-division of Taiwanese politics into two clear blocs:

  • traditional supporters of reunification with the mainland

  • and those who favour a more distinctive Taiwanese identity.

Some fear this could only deepen ethnic divisions between native Taiwanese (who have been on the island for generations), and those who came over from the mainland with the KMT in the 1940s.

See also:

19 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Lee Teng-hui accepts election blame
16 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan pressured over Taiwan visit
21 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Taiwan's relations with China
18 Mar 00 | Taiwan Election
The view from Beijing
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