Huang majored in journalism at the National Chengchi University in Taipei and then served in the military for two years. In 1964, he applied to the graduate program in Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh and studied there before transferring to a Ph.D. program at Cornell University in 1966.
On April 24, 1970, Huang and his brother-in-law, Cheng Tzu-tsai (Chinese: 鄭自財; pinyin: Zhèng Zì Cái), both members of the World United Formosans for Independence, were involved in the attempted assassination of then-Vice Premier Chiang Ching-kuo (Chiang Kai-shek's son) in New York City. Huang approached Chiang with a gun at the Plaza Hotel, but a Diplomatic Security Service special agent pushed him out of the way, causing the bullet to strike the hotel's revolving doors. The World United Formosans for Independence later issued a statement disclaiming involvement. He pled guilty in a 1971 trial to charges of attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm, but was granted bail before sentencing, and fled the United States. Cheng Tzu-tsai also jumped bail in 1971 after his conviction, fleeing to Sweden for asylum, but was extradited to the US in 1972, sentenced in 1973 to up to five years in prison and later served an additional prison term in Taiwan for illegal entry.
Huang's action is considered a stimulus for political reform in Taiwan, which promotes the role of Taiwanese people in the political arena. He was in hiding for 25 years, returning to Taiwan in 1996, after Taiwan's statute of limitations had run out on further prosecution for the assassination attempt as one of the last persons who had not been permitted to return to Taiwan for political reasons. Huang was prosecuted and served four months in jail for violating the 1987 National Security Law for illegal entry, since he did not have an entry visa when he returned to Taiwan in 1996.
In 1998, Huang became the director of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights. In 2000, he was appointed as National Policy Advisor to the President for human rights issues. He is also an avid supporter of the Green Party Taiwan since its founding. Huang led Amnesty International Taiwan from 2009 through 2013. In 2012, he was given an Alumni Excellence Award by the National Chengchi University for his lifelong commitment to democracy, freedom, and social movements.
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- "Deputy speaker’s remarks on rights activist spark ire". The Taipei Times. 27 May 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
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- "Terrorist Organization Profile: World United Formosans for Independence". National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. University of Maryland. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
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