Ma Ying-jeou was born in Kwong Wah Hospital in Kowloon, Hong Kong on 13 July 1950. He is of Hakka ancestry, descended from the venerable Han Dynasty General Ma Yuan and Three Kingdoms era General Ma Chao originating from Hunan Province of China. In a family of five children, Ma was the only son.
Ma earned his LL.B. from National Taiwan University in 1972. He pursued further studies in the United States, first earning an LL.M. from New York University Law School in 1976 and then an S.J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1981.
After receiving his LL.M., Ma worked as an associate for a Wall Street law firm in New York and as a legal consultant for a major bank in Massachusetts in the US before completing his doctoral studies. In 1981, Ma returned to Taiwan and started working for President Chiang Ching-kuo.
Ma is married to Christine Chow, and the couple has two daughters. Lesley (Ma Wei-chung, 馬唯中) was born in 1981 in New York when Ma was attending Harvard. She completed her undergraduate studies in life sciences at Harvard University and then her graduate studies at New York University. Ma's younger daughter is Kelly (Ma Yuan-chung, 馬元中), who was born in Taiwan and completed her undergraduate studies at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Ma and his wife sponsor children of low-income families in El Salvador through World Vision. On an official trip to Central America in June 2009, Mrs. Ma was able to meet with one of her sponsored children, an 11-year-old boy in San Salvador.
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