Global Taiwan Institute Chairman Robert Lai passes away

Lai was a defense expert who proposed the 2004 Hand-in-Hand Rally

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GTI Chairman Robert Lai (center).

GTI Chairman Robert Lai (center). (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Robert Lai (賴義雄), the chairman of the United States-based think tank the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI, 全球台灣研究中心) passed away in Maryland at the age of 78 on April 27.

Just days earlier, Lai had attended a seminar about Taiwan’s transitional justice, where he chatted with reporters, apparently in good health, the Central News Agency reported. He died in hospital after suffering a stroke.

Lai was born in Keelung in 1940, graduated from the civil engineering department at National Taiwan University, and obtained a Ph.D. degree at Northwest University in the U.S. He went on to become a defense and military strategy expert frequently employed by the U.S. defense industry.

Lai maintained close relations with key figures in the Democratic Progressive Party, and was credited as the man behind the Hand-in-Hand Rally on February 28, 2004, when two million Taiwanese formed a 500-kilometer-long human chain to mark the 57th anniversary of the 228 Incident, the uprising against the Kuomintang government which was followed by a period of brutal repression during which thousands died.

In 2006, Lai returned to Taiwan to chair the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs, 國家實驗研究院) and use his knowledge to contribute to the country, the Liberty Times reported.

The GTI was founded in 2016 as the most important Taiwan-related think tank in Washington, D.C., and in September of that year, Lai was appointed chairman of the institute.