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Tue, Feb 15, 2000 - Page 4 News List

CCK's would-be assassin back in the dock

INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT Peter Ng, a doctoral student in 1970 who pulled the trigger in an attempt to kill Chiang Ching-kuo, looks back on his motives and 20 years of life on the run as he faces a possible conviction for returning home without a visa


Peter Ng, left, who attempted to assassinate President Chiang Ching-kuo in New York in April 1970, poses with his brother-in-law, T.T. Deh, in May 1996. The photo was taken at Ng's first meeting with the press after returning -- without a visa -- to Taiwan earlier the same year.


On April 24, 1970, Peter Ng (黃文雄), then a 33 year-old doctoral student from Taiwan, raised a gun and prepared to fire a shot at future ROC president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

A US security guard swiftly struck him on the elbow causing him to miss his mark. He failed to complete his mission of killing the person he described as the successor to the "dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石)."

Ever since that dramatic moment in 1970, Ng's life has never been the same. Even now, after 20 years living as a fugitive and currently facing charges of entering Taiwan illegally more than four years ago, the incident continues to dog his life.

A decision on his illegal entry is scheduled to be handed down today.

The background

Ng went to the US in 1964 as a journalism graduate from Taiwan to study at the University of Pittsburgh. For the first six years he was there, he was not considered to be as active in the Taiwan independence movement as many other Taiwanese students in the US at the time were.

In fact, it had been Ng's brother-in-law, T.T. Deh (鄭自財) -- the former secretary-general of the World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) and the organizer of the attempt on Chiang Ching-kuo's life -- who brought Ng into the conspiracy.

In April 1970, Chiang Ching-kuo, then the vice premier of the ROC, visited the US to meet President Richard Nixon.

It was an anxious time for Taiwan, for Nixon was keen on rapprochement with Mao Zedong in China.

It was also a time of global turbulence -- the Vietnam War was raging and international security was under constant threat by terrorist groups who appealed to violence in pursuit of independence.

Inspired by the success of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Irish Republican Army in using violence to capture international attention to their aspiration for statehood, Deh, Ng, his sister and another Taiwan independence activist decided to take matters into their own hands by trying to assassinate Chiang during his US visit.

The night before the attempt, the four met at the Dehs' home to finalize the details. As the moment drew closer, the most difficult decision was to choose who would actually fire the gun.

"We were all aware of the consequences [of our actions]. It was a decision that could cost us our careers, our families or even our lives," Deh recalled. "I told them I would do it since I was the organizer. But Peter, who was the only unmarried person out of the four of us, said he would do it. I knew he was worried about his sister -- my wife -- and our two little children."

The act

After the shot was fired at the entry to New York's Plaza hotel, where Chiang was scheduled to deliver a speech, Ng was wrestled to the ground and immediately arrested. He had failed to hit his mark. Deh, who came to Ng's side on hearing the shot, was also arrested at the same time. At the time of his arrest, Ng was a doctoral candidate at Cornell University in upstate New York.

Having been caught in the act, Ng pleaded guilty on charges of attempted murder. Deh, who pleaded innocent, was eventually convicted after a WUFI colleague testified in court that he had given the weapon to Deh for the assassination.

WUFI, a group of overseas Taiwanese supporting independence, had been working to raise international concern about the issue of Taiwan independence.

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