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Taiwan expresses sorrow over Mandela's passing

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) extended its condolences yesterday over the death of South Africa's first black president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Nelson Mandela, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 95.

The ministry said it was saddened by the passing of the South African anti-apartheid politician, whom the R.O.C. government deeply admired for his remarkable lifelong contributions to the promotion of freedom, democracy, justice, human rights and reconciliation, it said in a statement.

Upon learning the news, President Ma Ying-jeou extended his condolences to Mandela's family, the South African government and people via Taipei's representative office in Johannesburg, a MOFA statement said.

Calling him a world-renowned human-rights fighter, MOFA said Mandela led South Africa's transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison for his political activities.

MOFA's statement came hours after South African President Jacob Zuma announced the news on South African national TV on Thursday.

Mandela had been receiving intensive medical care at home for a lung infection after spending three months in the hospital.

According to MOFA, Taiwan has close relationships with Nelson Mandela and South Africa, a former diplomatic ally.

Taiwan's Close Relations with Mandela

Mandela visited Taiwan in 1993 under the capacity as leader of the African National Congress (ANC) and received a decoration from then-R.O.C. President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

Lee granted Mandela the Order of Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon, the highest honor Taiwan awards to a foreign national, in recognition of his lifelong dedication to freedom, democracy and justice.

In his acceptance speech, Mandela expressed his admiration for R.O.C. founding father Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People that aimed to make the country a free and prosperous democracy.

Lee later flew to South Africa to attend Mandela's inauguration ceremony in May 1994. Mandela was president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

The R.O.C. has a long-term friendship with South Africa, MOFA said. The country established official diplomatic ties with the nation in 1976.

Mandela, however, announced in November 1996, that South Africa would recognize Beijing instead by the end of 1997, ending the country's 21-year relationship with Taipei.

After closing its embassy in South Africa in the wake of severance of official bilateral ties, Taiwan opened a representative office in the country's administrative capital Pretoria in January 1988.

Taiwan also established two liaison offices in South Africa, one in Cape Town and another in Johannesburg. The office in Johannesburg was closed in 2009.

South Africa has a representative office in Taipei called the Liaison Office of the Republic of South Africa.

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