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Dr. Mark Chen: Advocate for Taiwan in Both the U.S. and Taiwan Ep 212

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

Dr. Mark Chen has been an advocate for Taiwan in both the U.S. and Taiwan.

1979 was a crucial year for Taiwan. In January of that year the United States changed its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing and in December of that same year the Kaohsiung Incident happened. Speaking with my guest, Dr. Mark Chen, for this episode made me realize that there are many people to thank for the important work that they did back then to safeguard Taiwan and the people of Taiwan.

Dr. Mark Chen (陳唐山 ) has spent much of his life dedicated to doing advocacy work for Taiwan both in the U.S. and in Taiwan. Listeners of this podcast may recall his name being mentioned in episode 199 when I spoke with Gerrit van der Wees about the Taiwan Relations Act.

When the United States formally recognized the communist People’s Republic of China and severed its diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, Mark Chen and others reached out to U.S. congressmen and senators to express the concerns of the people of Taiwan. As a result, he and several others were invited to testify in front of the U.S Congress as the Taiwan Relations Act was being drafted. The act passed in April of 1979. Later that same year when the Kaohsiung Incident happened on December 10th Dr. Chen and overseas Taiwanese were galvanized to call for further investigation into the matter and to put international pressure on the Kuomintang government to release those charged and arrested in connection with the Kaohsiung Incident.

Dr. Chen also shared how the advocacy work being done for Taiwan at the time led to the formation of FAPA (the Formosan Association for Public Affairs) in 1982. This year marks the 40th anniversary of FAPA.

In part one of my interview with him we focus on the work he’s done for Taiwan in the U.S.- which started when he was a student at the University of Oklahoma.

Dr. Chen has been the president of the Taiwanese Association of America, World Federation of Taiwanese Associations, and the Formosan Association of Public Affairs.

In part two of my interview with Mark Chen, we’ll talk about his work in Taiwan as an elected official and public servant, and his current work as the chairman of the Prospect Foundation.

This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by NATWA, the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association.



NATWA was founded in 1988, and its mission is:


  1. to evoke a sense of self-esteem and enhance women’s dignity,
  2. to oppose gender discrimination and promote gender equality,
  3. to fully develop women’s potential and encourage their participation in public affairs,
  4. to contribute to the advancement of human rights and democratic development in Taiwan,
  5. to reach out and work with women’s organizations worldwide to promote peace for all.


To learn more about NATWA visit their website: www.natwa.com

Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • How the education Dr. Chen received when Taiwan was ruled by the Japanese influenced him
  • How the arrival of the Kuomintang in Taiwan in 1945 at the end of World War II was without the consent of the Taiwanese people and changed things overnight for the people of Taiwan
  • How the Chiang Kai-shek Kuomintang government was focused on retaking China at the time and a lot of this rhetoric ended up being taught in schools
  • The impact of the 228 massacre on the people of Taiwan
  • How subject matter taught in schools changed under the Kuomintang
  • How Mark and many of his peers were able to study in the U.S.  with the financial assistance of scholarships
  • How an exit visa was needed to be able to leave Taiwan which was still under martial law at the time
  • His involvement with Taiwanese student groups as a university student was forbidden by the Kuomintang government in Taiwan at the time
  • Why his Taiwan passport was confiscated after sending it to the Taiwan embassy in Houston to be renewed; making him stateless
  • When an ad about the 228 massacre that was to run to the University Oklahoma newspaper was denied publication, Dr. Chen who was a young student at the university, appealed directly to the university’s president who agreed to publish the ad
  • When the U.S. cut its official relationship with Taiwan in 1979, Taiwan was known as “Free China” under the rule of the Chiang Kai-shek government, as opposed to “Red China” which refers to the People’s Republic of China
  • How Dr. Chen and others in the Taiwanese American community worked to inform members of the U.S. Congress about the importance of the U.S. maintaining a relationship with Taiwan, and understanding the perspectives of the Taiwanese people
  • How Dr. Chen was blacklisted for being involved with organizing Taiwanese student organizations not allowed to return to Taiwan for father’s funeral
  • How Dr. Chen, Peng Ming-min and others were invited to testify to the U.S. Congress about on behalf of the people of Taiwan that there should be freedom and democracy in Taiwan, this formed the basis for the Taiwan Relations Act
  • On January 1, 1979 U.S. President Jimmy Carter switched the U.S.’s diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China
  • How Dr. Chen asked the American Institute in Taiwan office in Washington D.C. to investigate the Kaohsiung Incident which happened on December 10, 1979
  • Dr. Chen was the chairperson of the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations when he personally went to visit the chairman of Amnesty International in London to appeal of their help in calling for the release of those arrested due to the Kaohsiung Incident
  • How Dr. Chen and others informed U.S. Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy about the Kaohsiung Incident and what was happening in Taiwan at the time
  • What led to FAPA (Formosan Association for Public Affairs) being established in 1982
  • When U.S. President Jimmy Carter officially recognized the People’s Republic of China, the annual 20,000 immigration quota that the U.S. had allotted for Taiwan would switch over to China, Dr. Chen, Chai Trong-rong and others started lobbying for the immigration quota
  • They reached out to Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Claiborne Pell, Congressman Jim Leach and Congressman Stephen Solarz, about the immigration quota and a bill was passed that allowed the U.S. to allot Taiwan an annual immigration quota of 20,000
  • The success of recovering the U.S. immigration quota for Taiwan led to the idea to form FAPA (Formosan Association for Public Affairs)
  • FAPA was modeled after AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)
  • The first president of FAPA was Chai Trong-rong and Dr. Mark Chen was the second

Related Links:

Mark Chen (陳唐山): https://taiwaneseamericanhistory.org/blog/204-dr-tan-sun-mark-chen/



The Prospect Foundation: https://www.pf.org.tw/en/pfen


Taiwan under Japanese Rule: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan_under_Japanese_rule

Chiang Kai-shek: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiang_Kai-shek

Kuomintang (KMT): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuomintang

The 228 massacre: https://228massacre.org/



Taiwan’s Martial Law era: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martial_law_in_Taiwan

White Terror Era in Taiwan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Terror_(Taiwan)

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/james-carter/

Peng Ming-min: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peng_Ming-min

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/richard-m-nixon/

Henry Kissenger: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Kissinger

Shanghai Communique: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Communiqu%C3%A9

Senator Ted Kennedy: https://www.senate.gov/senators/FeaturedBios/Featured_Bio_KennedyEdwardTed.htm


Senator Claiborne Pell: https://www.congress.gov/member/claiborne-pell/P000193



Congressman Jim Leach: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Leach



Taiwan Relations Act: https://www.congress.gov/bill/96th-congress/house-bill/2479


American Institute in Taiwan (AIT): https://www.ait.org.tw/

Documenting Taiwan’s blacklisted dissidents (an article from the Taipei Times): https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2017/04/03/2003667971

The “Kaohsiung Incident” of 1979 (an article from Taiwan Communique): https://www.taiwandc.org/hst-1979.htm

Formosa Incident (an article from OFT- Outreach for Taiwan): https://oftaiwan.org/history/white-terror/formosa-incident/

Reports on the Kaohsiung Incident

Contemporary reports from 20 years ago shed light on the attitude of the authorities to the Incident’s aftermath (an article from the Taipei Times published in 1999): https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/local/archives/1999/12/10/0000014313

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Progressive_Party

World Federation of Taiwanese Associations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Federation_of_Taiwanese_Associations

Taiwanese Association of America: https://www.taa-usa.org/

Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/

Senator Ted Kennedy: a true friend of Taiwan https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2009/09/05/2003452786

Chai Trong-rong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chai_Trong-rong

FAPA (Formosan Association for Public Affairs): https://fapa.org/

AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee): https://www.aipac.org/

The 228 Massacre: Taboos, Scars, Stigmas and an Essential Lesson in Taiwan History (Episode 171): https://talkingtaiwan.com/the-228-massacre-taboos-scars-stigmas-and-an-essential-lesson-in-taiwan-history-ep-171/

Helping 228 Survivors Deal with Trauma: Dr. Michi Fu and Dr. Tsuann Kuo Work with the Transitional Justice Commission (Episode 172): https://talkingtaiwan.com/helping-228-survivors-deal-with-trauma-dr-michi-fu-and-dr-tsuann-kuo-work-with-the-transitional-justice-commission-ep-172/

Gerrit van der Wees: The Past and Present State of U.S. Taiwan Relations (Episode 199): https://talkingtaiwan.com/gerrit-van-der-wees-the-past-and-present-state-of-u-s-taiwan-relations-ep-199/

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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