( dpa ) - Seven former foreign heads of state are expected to gather Friday in Taipei to attend a democracy forum, President Chen Shui-bian announced Thursday.
In his news letter, Chen expressed warm welcome to the former state leaders who will attend the Global Forum on New Democracies in Taipei.
Chen said that Taiwan has kept their names secret until now for fear that China may prevent them from visiting Taiwan.
They are the former presidents Kim Young Sam of South Korea, Willem de Klerk of South Africa, Lech Walesa of Poland, Emil Constantinescu of Romania, Jolio Jelev of Bulgaria, Francisco Flores of El Salvador and Vicente Fox of Mexico.
The seven retired former leaders have either arrived, or will arrive later Thursday.
China sees Taiwan as its breakaway province and bars Beijing's allies from making formal contacts with Taipei.
The Global Forum on New Democracies is held by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and co-sponsored by the Taiwan government.
Taiwan hopes to create a platform for young democracies to exchange experiences in promoting democracy and to upgrade Taiwan's international profile.