Liu was born on (1932-12-07)7 December 1932 in Jingjiang, Jiangsu, Republican China. When he was nine years old, his father was killed by Communists. When he turned sixteen, he was drafted into the Nationalist Revolutionary Army, and he left for Taiwan in 1949. After leaving the military, he worked for the state-run radio and later as a reporter for the Taiwan Daily News, where he was sent on assignment to Hong Kong, Manila, and the Vietnam War. After marrying his wife Helen Cui Rong-Zhi, he became a foreign correspondent in 1967, and moved to Washington DC, where he took graduate classes at American University and worked part-time as an interpreter for the State Department.Later, his emigration to the United States was said to be motivated in part because he felt the government of Taiwan was suppressing him. He became a United States citizen in 1973–74, around the same time he left the Taiwan Daily News. After leaving the newspaper, Liu published articles, essays and books that were critical of the Chiang family and associated people, including Chiang Kai-shek, Soong Mei-ling, Chiang Ching-kuo, K. C. Wu and Wang Sheng, with books on Long Yun and K. C. Wu planned at the time he was assassinated.Liu ran two gift shops in Fisherman's Wharf and San Mateo and was a freelance journalist for several publications in Hong Kong and the San Francisco Journal, a US-based Chinese-language newspaper published by Maurice Chuck. After publishing several articles about the Chiang family, he received a letter from General Wang Sheng warning him from publishing a biography of Chiang Ching-kuo. He proceeded to publish an unauthorized biography of Chiang Ching-kuo in 1975, which was formed from three articles he had written in 1975 about Chiang's life prior to 1949. Liu planned to update the biography to cover more recent history, but was once again warned against writing about the Chiang family by Admiral Wang Hsi-ling in 1977. Liu finally revised the biography after a meeting late in 1983 where he favorably received a suggestion to tone down the criticism of the Chiang family from a family friend, former intelligence agent, and his former publisher on the Taiwan Daily News, Hsia Hsiao-hua. Following the suggestion, Liu received US$17,000 (equivalent to $41,800 in 2019) from Taiwan.