The costume session was a promotion for the website of an institute Lee opened in 2003, which holds classes on Taiwan's national identity. (Lee infuriated Beijing during his presidency by asserting the island's autonomy.) It was also an appeal to the youth vote in advance of next month's parliamentary elections, in which Lee's proindependence party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, is fielding 43 candidates. The Kuomintang party (KMT), which Lee led before being expelled in 2001 for supporting the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, has downplayed Lee's gimmick. "No matter who Lee Teng-hui likes to dress asóbe it a clown or comic characteróthat's his choice," shrugs KMT legislator Lin Yi-shih. "I believe it has a limited impact on young voters." Possibly Lee could pick up senior votes: Edajima is also an octogenarian.
To many in Taiwan, Lee Teng-Hui is a hero, a role he is quite comfortable with. Lee once described himself as a Moses leading Taiwan to the promised land. Last week, the former President adopted another role model: Heihachi Edajima, a character in a popular Japanese comic series. Edajima, a bull-headed kendo master, teaches troubled youths to be warriors. Lee, 81, appeared in photos dressed as the martial artistócomplete with snarling sidekicks.