Li Ao

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Li Ao
Li Ao at Fayuan Temple in Beijing in 2005. The temple featured prominently in his first novel, Martyr's Shrine.
Born (1935-04-25) 25 April 1935 (age 82)
Harbin, Manchukuo
Alma mater National Taichung First Senior High School
National Taiwan University
Spouse(s) Terry Hu
Wang Zhihui
Children 3
Parent(s) Li Dingyi
Zhang Kuichen

Li Ao (Chinese: 李敖; pinyin: Lǐ Áo, also spelled Lee Ao; born 25 April 1935) is a Chinese-Taiwanese writer, social commentator, historian, and independent politician.

Li has been called one of the most important modern East Asian essayists today; his critics have called him as an intellectual narcissist.[citation needed] He is a vocal critic of both the main political parties in Taiwan today, the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party. Although he favors reunification with the People's Republic of China (PRC), especially under the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, Li rejects being labeled "Pan-Blue" because of his opposition to the Kuomintang. He is an advocate of Chinese nationalism and is given much media exposure in Taiwan due to his popularity as a writer.


Li was born in Harbin, Manchukuo to Li Dingyi (李鼎彝), a professor of Chinese, and Zhang Kuichen (張桂貞). His family has ancestry in Wei County (modern-day Weifang), Shandong Province, and Fuyu County, Jilin Province. The entire Li family, except for two children, moved to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Li received his bachelor's degree from National Taiwan University's Department of History in 1959.[1]

Dissident writer[edit]

Li was credited for his contributions to the democratic movement in Taiwan between the 1960s and 1980s. In the 1960s, he was the editor-in-chief of Wenxing (文星), a magazine that promoted democracy and personal freedom. He was jailed by the Kuomintang government from 1971 to 1976,[2] and again from 1981 to 1982,[citation needed] for helping a pro-Taiwan independence legal scholar, Peng Ming-min, escape to Japan in 1970.[3] Ironically, Li had a long history of being an advocate of reunification.

Throughout the 1970s, Li received much international attention for his imprisonment. He was highlighted by Amnesty International as one of the three most important political prisoners in Taiwan in 1974.

After his release, Li continued to publish articles in magazines and newspapers, criticizing the Kuomintang government. Ninety-six of his books were banned in Taiwan until 1991.[citation needed] In the 1980s he also sponsored numerous anti-Kuomintang magazines.

His novel Mountaintop Love (《上山.上山.愛》), about a mother and a daughter who fall in love with the same man, though several years apart, established Li's status as a prominent novelist. His novel Martyrs' Shrine: The Story of the Reform Movement of 1898 in China (北京法源寺), is about the beginning and the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform. Li also published his autobiography in 2001, revealing more than ten of his romantic affairs.[citation needed] The bulk of his work, however, is non-fiction and consists mainly of essays and historical commentaries.

Entry into politics[edit]

Li strongly supports the idea of "One country, two systems" proposed by Deng Xiaoping. He believes that the unification of China is inevitable and at one point advocated immediate surrender of Taiwan to the PRC. He thinks that an immediate reunification is more beneficial for Taiwan. This, combined with his past as a political dissident and his witty writing style, has made him a popular figure among the supporters of Chinese reunification. It has also made him an unpopular figure among the supporters of Taiwan independence.

Li participated in the presidential election in 2000 as a candidate for the New Party. Li usually plays the role of a political gadfly, and his campaign was largely symbolic. He took the election as an opportunity to "educate" the people of Taiwan. Both Li and his party publicly encouraged people to vote for James Soong. During the presidential debates, Li even stated that he was not planning to vote for himself and that people should vote for Soong.

2000 Republic of China Presidential Election Result
Political affiliation Candidate Votes
President Vice President Total votes Percentage
Green Taiwan in White Cross.svg Democratic Progressive Party Chen Shui-bian Annette Lu 4,977,737 39.3%
Independent candidate icon (TW).svg Independent James Soong Chang Chau-hsiung 4,664,932 36.8%
Emblem of the Kuomintang.svg Kuomintang Lien Chan Vincent Siew 2,925,513 23.1%
Independent candidate icon (TW).svg Independent Hsu Hsin-liang Josephine Chu 79,429 0.63%
LogoCNP.svg New Party Li Ao Elmer Fung 16,782 0.13%
Total 12,786,671 82.69% voter turnout
Valid votes 12,664,393
Invalid votes 122,278

Since the 2000 presidential election, Li has bitterly spoken out against pro-independence Nobel laureate Yuan T. Lee, who publicly supported Chen Shui-bian. He has also accused former President Lee Teng-hui of corruption. In October 2004, Li ran in the December 11 legislative election as a non-partisan candidate of the South Taipei constituency, and was subsequently elected to be the last winning place. He took office as an independent legislator on February 1, 2005.

In February 2005, Li held a press conference, accusing the PFP leader, James Soong of having changed his opposition towards military weapons purchase from the United States under the influence of people of pro-American inclination, people with CIA backgrounds and arms traders who would receive kick-backs. Li threatened Soong that he would reveal the names of the people with CIA backgrounds, who were influencing Soong, to the general public unless Soong reverted to his previous opposition position.[4] PFP legislators dismissed the accusation and responded that Li Ao should reveal his evidence to support his story.[5]

Later that year, in June, Li claimed to the Taiwanese press that he had exclusive information from the CIA concerning the 3-19 shooting incident.[citation needed] He alleged that the real motive of the killer was to assassinate the Vice-President Annette Lu in order to garner sympathy votes for Chen Shui-bian, and that the killer had been condoned by the governing party for ulterior political reasons. After flashing several allegedly CIA-endorsed documents to reporters, he mailed them to Annette Lu, claiming that she needed to know the truth about the assassination attempt to the full extent.[citation needed]

On September 19, 2005, Li returned to Mainland China for the first time in 56 years.[citation needed] He was invited to give speeches at Peking University, Tsinghua University and Fudan University where he was warmly received, and the trip was claimed to have had significant impact on observers of Cross-Strait relations. His speech at Peking University was particularly noteworthy as Li publicly urged the Chinese Communist Party to protect the freedom of speech as laid down in the constitution of the PRC. He also praised the achievement of the CCP in bringing economic progress and prosperity; at one point he even alluded to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and took it as an example to sustain his point that freedom should be obtained through "cleverer" means, rather than mass revolutions that could result in numerous deaths.[6][7][8]

Li was a candidate for the 2006 Taipei Mayoral election, and is currently a candidate for the 2012 Legislative Yuan elections, campaigning in Taipei City District 8 under the People First Party (PFP) banner. Li also satirized Mao Zedong's Little Red Book in his article.

2006 Taipei City Mayoral Election Result
No Candidate Party Votes %
1 Li Ao Independent candidate icon (TW).svg Independent 7,795 0.61%
2 Clara Chou[a] Taiwan orange.svg Taiwan Solidarity Union 3,372 0.26%
3 Frank Hsieh Green Taiwan in White Cross.svg Democratic Progressive Party 525,869 40.89%
4 James Soong[b] Independent candidate icon (TW).svg Independent 53,281 4.14%
5 Hau Lung-pin Emblem of the Kuomintang.svg Kuomintang 692,085 53.81%
6 Ke Tsi-hai (柯賜海) Independent candidate icon (TW).svg Independent 3,687 0.29%

On October 24, 2006, Li sprayed tear gas and wielded a stun gun during a Legislative Yuan National Defense Committee meeting, forcing several members of the parliament to flee. He was attempting to stop debate on purchasing attack submarines and Patriot anti-aircraft missiles for $16 billion from the U.S.[11] He was also wearing the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta.[12]

Personal life[edit]

On May 6, 1980, Li married Taiwanese writer, translator and film actress Terry Hu. Their love story even featured in Time.[13] But the couple divorced on August 28, 1980, after 115 days in total.[14][15]

On March 8, 1992, Li married his second wife, Wang Zhihui (王志慧). They have one son and one daughter together. Their son, Li Kan (李戡), is a PhD student in Chinese Studies of Cambridge[16][17]and an alumnus of Peking University.[18][19]

Li also has an elder daughter, Hedy W. Lee, from a previous relationship.[20]


  1. ^ Despite Chou's expulsion from the Taiwan Solidarity Union on November 9, 2006, the party could not withdraw their recommendation for Chou under Republic of China's Public Officials Election and Recall Law. She would still contest the elections as a TSU candidate.[9]
  2. ^ James Soong was Chairman of the People's First Party at the time of the elections, but entered the elections as an independent.[10]


  1. ^ Hwang, Jim (1 March 2000). "Li Ao (New Party): Exposing the Dark Side". Free China Review. Taiwan Today. Retrieved September 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ Butterfield, Fox (1977-04-09). "Chiang's Son Has Tightened Hold on Taiwan". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-15. 
  3. ^ Loa Iok-Sin (2008-09-21). "Peng tells details of escape from KMT". Taipei Times. Retrieved 2017-06-15. 
  4. ^ 中廣新聞網 (February 24, 2005). "李敖警告宋楚瑜軍購別鬆手 否則爆出身邊CIA臥底". Archived from the original on May 6, 2005. 
  5. ^ 中廣新聞網 (February 24, 2005). "親民黨立委:李敖有證據就直接講". Archived from the original on May 6, 2005. 
  6. ^ China Lectured by Taiwan Ally, New York Times, September 23, 2005
  7. ^ Gadfly Taiwan writer calls for more academic freedom in address to mainland students, Associated Press, September 21, 2005
  8. ^ Li Ao's Speech At Beijing University, English translation
  9. ^ "TSU expels Taipei mayoral candidate". China Post. November 10, 2006. Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  10. ^ Shih, Hsiu-chuan (December 10, 2006). "Elections 2006: People First Party chairman announces an end to his career". Taipei Times. Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  11. ^ "BBC NEWS - Asia-Pacific - Taiwan MP in 'tear gas' protest". 
  12. ^ Li Ao wears gas mask and sprays tear gas in Legislative Yuan (in Chinese)
  13. ^ 胡因梦: 此生和李敖纠缠不清 Retrieved 2017-03-21
  14. ^ 难忘美人前妻胡因梦 李敖感性祝其生日快乐(图) (in Chinese). Xinhuanet. 
  15. ^ 李敖忆与前妻胡因梦旧情 揭上世纪台湾四大美女(图) (in Chinese). CRL. 
  16. ^ Kan Lee - Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Retrieved 2017-04-28
  17. ^ Xiong Qixia (November 12, 2016). "李昕:我写李敖没有为他打抱不平的意思". 晶报 (in Chinese). 
  18. ^ 李敖儿子北大毕业出书 李敖现身撑台赞其天才 Retrieved 2017-03-21
  19. ^ 李敖李戡妙语连珠 Retrieved 2017-03-21
  20. ^ 请不要叫我“李敖的女儿” Retrieved 2017-03-21

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