Taiwanese author Li Ao dies after battling with brain tumour

Taiwanese writer Li Ao speaks in Hong Kong on Sept 29, 2005.
Taiwanese writer Li Ao speaks in Hong Kong on Sept 29, 2005. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI - Taiwan’s famous writer, critic and historian Li Ao died at the age of 83 shortly before 11am on Sunday (March 18), according to the Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

Li, who has suffered from brain tumor since July of 2015, died peacefully at the hospital, Xinhua news agency reported, quoting a statement from the hospital.

Li was born in 1935 in Harbin, capital of the northeastern Heilongjiang Province, and was brought up in Beijing until the age of 14. He left for Taiwan with his family in 1949, and then studied history in Taiwan.

In March of 1971, Li was imprisoned because of his criticism of the island’s ruler, and was freed in November 1976.

Li, widely known for his open and critical comments on political affairs, opposed “Taiwan independence” and was a supporter of China’s reunification, Xinhua reported.

In 2005, a casual comment by the outspoken Li sparked a passionate discussion among Chinese Singaporeans.

After a tour of China in September that year, Li said at a press conference in Hong Kong: “Taiwanese are still better. They’re scoundrels but they’re lovable. Hong Kongers are craftier. Singaporeans are stupider. The Chinese are more unfathomable.”

His offhand remark led to dozens of letters and columns in Singapore Chinese newspapers such as Lianhe Zaobao and Shin Min Daily News.

He later explained his remark, during an episode of his popular TV talk show, Li Ao's Standpoint.

In the programme, he said that under the leadership of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, the collective comes before the individual, and the success of the Republic is therefore a “collective creation”. The flip side of the coin is that there have been few “outstanding people” in the country, he said.

Arguing that since Singapore's forefathers were poorly educated, Singaporeans are, therefore, “not of a good stock”.