TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's veteran pro-democracy and pro-independence activist Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) passed away in Taipei on Friday (April 8).
Peng was one of the most influential figures in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In 2000, he served as the national policy advisor to former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Born in Taichung during Japanese rule (1895-1945), Peng studied law and political science at what was then Imperial Tokyo University, later rebranded as the University of Tokyo. Peng returned to Taiwan to continue his education at National Taiwan University and obtained a bachelor's degree in political science in 1948, when there was political repression of intellectuals after the Kuomintang (KMT) lost the Civil War to the Chinese Communist Party and relocated to Taiwan.
Following graduation, Peng briefly worked at a bank and then did a master's degree in law at McGill University in Canada and a doctoral degree in international law at the University of Paris in 1954. After returning to Taiwan to teach at National Taiwan University, Peng was already an internationally-acclaimed international law expert.
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek later appointed Peng as an advisor to Taiwan's delegation to the United Nations in 1961, the highest political position held by a native Taiwanese person at the time.
However, Peng became skeptical of the political system after three years of service, so he jointly drafted, “A Manifesto to Save Taiwan,” which advocated rewriting the outdated constitution to reflect political reality, safeguard human rights, and to create a responsible government, as well as joining the U.N. with a new identity — as Taiwan rather than "China."
The attempt to update the constitution failed and Peng was handed a jail sentence of eight years. However, Peng managed to escape to Sweden and then the U.S., in 1970.
He took top jobs at several pro-democracy and pro-independence organizations during his 22 years in the U.S., during which he co-founded the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) in 1982. This has become one of the most influential Washington-based pro-Taiwan lobby groups.
Peng returned to Taiwan in 1992 at the invitation of then President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). He joined the DPP in 1995 and ran against Lee in the country's first direct presidential election on behalf of the DPP.
The Peng Foundation for Culture and Education (彭明敏文教基金會) announced the loss of Peng on Friday morning (April 8), adding the veteran pro-independence activist will be laid to rest in a cemetery at the Presbyterian Church in Yancheng District, Kaohsiung.