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Peng Ming-min (Chinese: 彭明敏; pinyin: Péng Míngmǐn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Phêⁿ Bêng-bín; born 15 August 1923) is a noted democracy activist, advocate of Taiwan independence, and politician. Arrested for sedition in 1964 for printing a manifesto advocating democracy in his native Taiwan, he escaped to Sweden, before taking a post as a university teacher in the United States. After 22 years in exile he returned to become the Democratic Progressive Party's first presidential candidate in Taiwan's first direct presidential election in 1996.

Peng Ming-min
彭明敏 (26518482873) (cropped).jpg
Peng in 2016
Senior Adviser to the Taiwanese President
In office
20 May 2000 – 20 May 2008
Personal details
Born (1923-08-15) 15 August 1923 (age 96)
Taikō Town, Taikō District, Taichū Prefecture, Japanese Taiwan (modern-day Dajia District, Taichung, Taiwan)
Political partyDemocratic Progressive Party (since 1995)
Alma materTokyo Imperial University
National Taiwan University
McGill University
University of Paris

Early lifeEdit

Born during Japanese rule to a prominent doctor's family in rural Taiwan, Peng received his primary education in Taiwan before going to Tokyo for secondary education, graduating from Kwansei Gakuin Middle School in 1939 and the Third Higher School in 1942. During World War II, he studied law and political science at the Tokyo Imperial University (now the University of Tokyo). At the end of the war, in order to avoid the American bombing of Japan’s capital, he decided to go to his brother near Nagasaki. En route to his brother, he lost his left arm in a bombing raid.[1] While recuperating at his brother's house, he witnessed the second atomic blast that destroyed the city of Nagasaki.[2]

After the Japanese surrender, Peng returned to Taiwan and enrolled in the National Taiwan University. He was studying for his bachelor's degree at the Law School when the February 28 Incident occurred.

During these terrifying weeks I remained quietly within my grandmother's house, frightened and worried. I had not been a member of any politically active group on the campus, and my name was on no petition or manifesto. No soldiers came to search our house, and I was not called out in the middle of the night as were some friends who disappeared. For all my hard work toward a degree in political science at the university, I was still far removed from practical politics and very naive. I had not yet fully realized how much more threatened our personal freedom was now than it had been under the Japanese. In several letters to my father at this time I expressed an angry reaction to the terrible things taking place at Taipei. I did not then know that my father's mail was being censored until one day the chief of police at Kaohsiung quietly warned my father to tell his son not to write such letters, and that my name too was now on a blacklist.[3]

After receiving his bachelor's degree, Peng went on to pursue a master's degree at the Institute of International Air Law at the McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, later a doctoral degree in law at the University of Paris in 1954.[4] During his studies, Peng wrote some of the first essays on international air law published in France, Canada and Japan. His publications attracted considerable international attention and distinguished Peng as a pioneer in the new field of international air law.[5]

Political lifeEdit

Peng Ming-min (center) with colleagues at National Taiwan University in 1954

Peng returned to Taiwan and in 1957, at age 34, he became the youngest full professor at the National Taiwan University. While Peng was a professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science from 1961 to 1962, he attracted the attention of Chiang Kai-shek and other Kuomintang (KMT) leaders. Chiang appointed Peng as the advisor to the Republic of China's delegation to the United Nations, then the highest political position held by any Taiwanese, and hinted of future high-level governmental appointments.

My inner thoughts were in turmoil. The government and party bosses had made a great mistake in sending me to New York. This experience finally politicized me, and I was to lead a dual life thereafter, for many months, until I made a final commitment to challenge the dictatorship with a public demand for reform.[3]

In 1964, Peng and two of his students, Hsieh Tsung-min and Wei Ting-chao [zh], created a manifesto advocating the overthrow of the Chiang regime and the establishment of a democratic government in Taiwan.[3] The three painstakingly printed 10,000 copies in secret, but before the manifesto could be distributed, Peng and his students were arrested on 20 September 1964.[1][6] They languished in jail for several months before being tried for sedition by a military court.[3] Peng was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment but his case attracted worldwide attention. Bowing to the increasing international pressure, Chiang Kai-shek released Peng from military prison 14 months later, but placed him under house arrest for life with strict surveillance.[7]

By 1968, his house arrest had become so suffocating that friends and the Swedish chapter of Amnesty International helped plan for Peng's escape from Taiwan.[8] In 1970, Peng managed to travel by plane to Hong Kong and from there to Sweden with a forged passport.[9] He was granted political asylum in Sweden, but despite the freedom he enjoyed in Europe, he decided to pursue an appointment at the University of Michigan. Both the KMT and the Communist Party of China strenuously objected, but the United States granted his request for a visa and Peng arrived in Michigan in August 1970.[10] During his time at Michigan, he wrote his autobiography A Taste of Freedom.

While in exile, Peng continued to be a leading figure in Taiwan politics and American foreign policy issues. In 1981, he co-founded the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a Taiwanese lobbying organization based in Washington D.C., Peng served as FAPA's president from 1986 to 1988 and chaired the Asia-Pacific Democracy Association in 1989. He also testified on Taiwan issues before the United States Congress on several occasions.

Return to TaiwanEdit

With the death of Chiang Ching-kuo in 1988, Lee Teng-hui assumed the presidency and began to reform Taiwanese government. In 1992, he promulgated a revision of Article 100 of the Criminal Code, which not only allowed Taiwanese to advocate independence without being charged with sedition, but also granted amnesty to political prisoners and ended the overseas blacklist.[11] No longer threatened with arrest, Peng returned to Taiwan on 2 November 1992 to a crowd of 1,000 people at Taoyuan International Airport.[12] He had been in exile for 22 years. Peng joined the Democratic Progressive Party in February 1995.[13]

On 28 September 1995, after an arduous two-tiered nomination process involving 49 public debates around Taiwan,[14] the Democratic Progressive Party nominated Peng as their candidate for Taiwan’s first presidential elections.[15] Outspokenly running on a platform of Taiwanese independence,[16] he garnered 21% of the votes, second only to incumbent Lee Teng-hui, who won the election.[17]

1996 Republic of China Presidential Election Result
President Candidate Vice President Candidate Party Votes %
Lee Teng-hui Lien Chan   Kuomintang 5,813,699 54.0
Peng Ming-min Frank Hsieh   Democratic Progressive Party 2,274,586 21.1
Lin Yang-kang Hau Pei-tsun   Independent 1,603,790 14.9
Chen Li-an Wang Ching-feng   Independent 1,074,044 9.9
Invalid/blank votes 117,160
Total 10,883,279 100

In 2001, after Chen Shui-bian was elected president, Peng was appointed one of Chen's senior advisors.[18][19] In 2009, Peng's A Perfect Escape (逃亡), was published in Chinese, revealing the details of his dramatic escape in 1970.[20] In July 2015, Peng and three others founded the Taiwan Independence Action Party.[21] English translations of his articles are occasionally published in the Taipei Times.[22][23]


  1. ^ a b Huang, Tai-lin (17 April 2005). "Peng's beliefs secures him a place in Taiwan's history". Taipei Times. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  2. ^ Brown, Tom (30 October 1992). "Taiwanese Dissident Going Home After 22 Years In U.S." Seattle Times. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Peng, Ming-min (1972). A Taste of Freedom: Memoirs of a Formosan Independence Leader. Chicago, New York, London: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 9780030913884.
  4. ^ Huang, Tai-lin (17 April 2005). "Democratic gains require protection". Taipei Times. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  5. ^ "Taiwan eyes Montreal meeting". Postmedia News. Retrieved 3 June 2016.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Continuing Student Agitation in Indonesia". Minerva. Springer. 5 (1): 116–123. 1966. JSTOR 41821762.
  7. ^ Kerr, George (1965). Formosa Betrayed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  8. ^ Griffin, Jerry, "Real Life Real History", 11 May 2004.
  9. ^ Loa Lok-Sin (21 Sep 2008). "Peng Tells Details of Escape From KMT". Taipei Times. p. 3.
  10. ^ Link text, 1970 Memorandum from the Department of State.
  11. ^ Taiwan Communique no. 55, "Article 100 Revised" June, 1992.
  12. ^ Taiwan Communique no. 57, "Professor Peng Ming Min Returns", December 1992.
  13. ^ Su, Christie (30 September 1995). "DPP nominates a former professor as its first presidential candidate". Taiwan Today/Taiwan Info. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  14. ^ Taiwan Communique no. 68, "Professor Peng is DPP's Candidate for Presidency", October 1995.
  15. ^ Tyler, Patrick, "Taiwan Votes for President and Celebrates Democracy", New York Times, 23 March 1996.
  16. ^ Peng, Ming-Min, "Taiwan Belongs to No One", New York Times, 4 March 1996.
  17. ^ Times News Services,""Taiwan Picks Incumbent, Democracy", Seattle Times, 24 March 1996.
  18. ^ "Peng appointed as advisor to Taiwan's new president". United Press International. 29 April 2000. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  19. ^ "President Chen Appoints Advisers". Office of the President. Central News Agency. 20 May 2001. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  20. ^ Ko, Shu-ling, "Peng Ming-min Launches New Book, Castigates Ma", Taipei Times, 15 June 2009.
  21. ^ Loa, Iok-sin (3 July 2015). "Independence party enters fray". Taipei Times. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  22. ^ Peng, Ming-min (7 October 2014). "'Spiritual contract' with Beijing?". Taipei Times. Translated by Clegg, Julian. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  23. ^ Peng, Ming-min (8 July 2016). "When a plot by a sneaky neighbor falls apart". Taipei Times. Translated by Svensson, Perry. Retrieved 15 July 2016.

External linksEdit