TAIPEI, Taiwan, April 29 -- Taiwan's incoming President Chen Shui-bian has appointed Peng Ming-min, a leading activist for independence from China, to be his senior presidential advisor.
On announcing the appointment, Chen expressed gratitude and respect for Peng, who helped contribute to Chen's victory in the March election.
"Peng is Taiwan's father of freedom and democracy," Chen told reporters.
Peng, president of the Nation Building Council, an organization that promotes Taiwan's independence, has been devoted to pro-independence activities for decades.
Peng was charged with sedition in the 1960's for his writings that called for democratization and independence for Taiwan. He served 14 months in prison and 5 years under house arrest before escaping to Sweden, where he was granted political asylum. He lived in exile in the U.S. for 22 years before returning to Taiwan in 1992.
The new president -- whose Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) promotes independence -- has been cautious and low-key in handling cross-strait relations since coming to power, winning praises from U.S. senators and diplomats.
"I'm lucky to be able to shoulder the cross of history," Chen said after a meeting with Peng. "I'll exert rationality, compassion and will to lead the country.'
Peng, who returned from a United States trip Wednesday night, said that many American people are sympathetic to Taiwan's position and are willing to extend support to Taiwan as long as the people of the island are united.
Peng ran for Taiwan president on behalf of the DPP four years ago. He was defeated by the incumbent President Lee Teng-hui.