United Kingdom Information Commissioner John Edwards must answer to Tribunal for ‘frivolous’ refusal of Freedom of Information request in University of London diploma case

United Kingdom Information Commissioner John Edwards called to court. (credits: Information Commissioner’s Office/Public Law Project)

John Edwards, Information Commissioner in the United Kingdom, has been called to task for his practice of blanket denials and refusals of Freedom of Information requests. Edwards has adopted the policies of the University of London, the London School of Economics, and the British Library to label FOI requests vexatious if they are linked to the long-standing controversy over Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s 1984 PhD award from the University of London.

One member of the curious public, Gloria Gallegos, decided Edwards went too far refusing her information request as “frivolous” and has gone to the Information Review Tribunal for relief. The FOI request was for verification information to determine authenticity of University diplomas. Last year the Upper Tribunal ruled that oral thesis viva examinations were exempt from disclosure as personal data thus creating an academic fraud blind spot with secret viva reports. The so-called “frivolous” request was made in an effort to mitigate the blind spot by seeking other verifications of academic qualification and ways to determine authenticity and validity of diplomas.

The University of London and Commissioner Edwards both misconstrued the FOI request as seeking information that had already been made public. The UL is required by statute to provide advice and assistance to persons making FOI requests and failed to do so, thus perpetuating the misconstruction of the request which only sought public information as opposed to exempt personal data. Edwards, accepting the UL’s misunderstanding as his own, then went past the UL’s declaration of vexatious and also branded the FOI request as frivolous, completely disregarding its serious purpose.

The Tribunal appeal provides details with Commissioner Edwards as the Respondent:

“The Univesity of London had a duty to provide advice and assistance to Appellant and failed to meet that statutory duty.”

“The Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] at Section 16 requires in part: “It shall be the duty of a public authority to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect the authority to do so, to persons who propose to make, or have made, requests for information to it.”

“The FOIA at Section 45(2)(a) mandates that a code of practice issued by the Minister of the Cabinet Office must include “…the provision of advice and assistance by public authorities to persons who propose to make, or have made, requests for information to them….” clearly establishing the Parliamentary intent of requiring public authorities to assist in the disclosure of information.”

“Appellant sought signature information to verify the authenticity of University of London diplomas.”

“Appellant’s information request was misconstrued by the University as seeking information already disclosed to the public. Had the Section 16 duty to assist the Appellant been met, the University would have better understood the nature of the request concerned signature verification requirements belonging in the public domain, contrasted to exempt personal data, and then could and should have aided the Appellant in making the information request in a form acceptable to the University.”

“The FOIA does not define “frivolous” in the Act. FOIA frivolous refusals are rare instances, consequently there is a paucity of case law to guide the Court, thus requiring common usage. Cambridge Dictionary [2023] states: “A frivolous claim is not based on fact or good reasons, or relates to something that is not at all important, so that it is obviously not likely to succeed or not worth taking to court.

“The FOIA also does not define “reasonable” nor “vexatious” and the Appellant asserts The Information Commissioner v Devon County Council & Dransfield is the controlling caselaw for such matters.”

“On appeal of Devon, Court of Appeal Justice Arden approved only if “the high standard set by vexatiousness is satisfied”.

“The FOIA at Section 50(2)(c) equates vexatious and frivolous as reasons for refusing an information request thus elevating the Respondent’s burden of proof to a high standard. The University considered the FOIA request vexatious while the Respondent considered the FOIA request to be frivolous.”

“Respondent has not met Justice Arden’s “high standard,” offering only his miscontruction of the information request as proof of frivolousness or vexatiousness.”

“Respondent abused his administrative discretion by the abrogation of his evidentiary duty to What Do They Know website, stating, “The fact that whatdotheyknow.com has suspended your account strongly indicates that this request has not been made to obtain information.”

“Appellant’s account suspension at What Do They Know was made without adequate notice of cause or opportunity to appeal the suspension, thus depriving the Appellant of fundamental due process of law rights and rendering the account suspension insufficient evidence upon which to base a FOIA determination of frivolousness, rather than reaching the contrary“strongly indicates”conclusionary statement of the Respondent.”

“Respondent’s misconstruction of the FOIA request led to his erroneous conclusion about the Appellant’s serious purpose. “Given that you are already aware that the information is in the public

domain, we consider that this complaint lacks any serious purpose. As the information is already available to you, the only possible purpose of submitting this complaint is to annoy, harass or otherwise burden the University.”

“The Upper Tribunal has decided that FOIA personal data exclusions shield thesis oral viva examinations from disclosure to the public. The personal data exclusions thus cloud the transparency of advanced degree awards in the United Kingdom. Appellant’s serious purpose is to mitigate the potential of academic fraud caused by the personal data blind spot by identifying proper signature verification requirements for awarded diplomas.”

“Appellant is conducting an independent study of the verification of advanced degree awards for the purpose of detecting academic fraud in United Kingdom universities.”

Edwards has a month to respond; however, in other FOI cases pending he has asked for extensions of time until July to reply. The Tribunals are getting busy with five pending cases related to the Tsai Ing-wen controversy. The University of London leads with three cases, while the LSE and the British Library each have a case. The blanket refusal policy adopted by Edwards seems destined to generate even more unfavorable FOI outcomes, thus increasing the pressure on crowded court dockets.

Disclaimer: I am representing the Appellant before the Information Review Tribunal. I have been monitoring ICO decisions and am appalled at the blanket refusal policy of the Information Commissioner. The mischaracterization of the FOI request seeking academic verification requirements as frivolous appears to be part of a concerted campaign to restrict information that should be in the public domain prompting my decision to volunteer as representative. -Michael Richardson


Chilly Chen is today’s leading voice for Taiwan independence

Taiwan independence activist Chilly Chen condemns Kuomintang support for annexation by People’s Republic of China outside the party headquarters. (credits: CRNTT screenshot/Central News Agency)

Taiwan independence activist Chilly Chen has become the island’s loudest voice for freedom from China, both the Republic of China in-exile and the People’s Republic of China. Chen’s lastest action was a sidewalk news conference outside the Kuomintang Party headquarters that accused the KMT of “colluding with the Chinese Communist Party.”

“KMT officials want Taiwanese to accede to the Chinese Communist Party’s demands, including following its ‘one China’ principle, its ‘one country, two systems’ model and negotiating a peace agreement.”

“Such steps would turn Taiwan Strait issues into domestic Chinese affairs.”

“If China were to start a war against Taiwan, the international community would be unable to help. The consequences would be dire.”

“We are entering a crucial time. Everyone in Taiwan must rally as one, to fight and safeguard the homeland.”

“People must make the right choice in next year’s presidential and legislative elections. We must stop the pro-China KMT from bringing in the CCP to rule over us, which would turn Taiwan into a vast graveyard.”

The news conference, where police protected Chen instead of arresting him, was preceeded by Chilly’s noisy send-off and welcome demonstrations at the airport when former ROC President Ma Ying-jeou made a visit to his birthplace city of Shenzhen, in Guangdong Province, China.

Chilly Chen is an equal opportunity protester. The head of Taiwan Republic advocacy group, Chen is well known for his paint balloon and paintball attacks on the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial statue. Chilly has repeatedly called for removal of dictator Chiang’s statues from public places.

Chen’s protest activity and street theatre demonstrations have sometimes put him in harm’s way as he gets forcibly removed by security agents and police. Undeterred, Chilly presses forward working in all his spare time for Taiwanese independence. Chen does not want to continue with the Republic of China in-exile, or join up with the People’s Republic of China, Chilly wants a Republic of Taiwan instead.

Chen’s hard work is beginning to pay off as he gains growing media attention and his news interviews and street actions spread his pro-independence message. People are listening and Chilly Chen is one man we are not done hearing from.

Talk show host Dennis Peng told by Republic of China judge that lawsuit in Tsai Ing-wen thesis case against London School of Economics official Kevin Haynes belongs in United Kingdom

Dennis Peng is host of True Voice of Taiwan internet talk show. (credit: True Voice of Taiwan screenshot)

Taipei District Court Judge Lin Weihuan has dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by talk show host Dennis Peng against Kevin Haynes, Head of Legal Team at the London School of Economics. Peng, living in self-exile in California, faces arrest in Taiwan in a separate criminal defamation prosecution brought after complaint by Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen. Peng had sued Haynes for aiding ROC prosecutors against him by making false statements about Tsai’s PhD thesis examination.

A complex web of litigation surrounds the controversial PhD thesis of President Tsai, entitled Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Action. Tsai triggered an academic firestorm that grew into a political issue in June 2019 when she filed her thesis with the LSE Library, thirty-five years late. Tsai refuses to disclose the oral viva examination report which purportedly approved her thesis. The LSE, where Tsai attended school, was unable to award PhD degrees in 1983, when the thesis was written, so the University of London awarded her a PhD degree on the strength of the secret viva examination.

Dennis Peng has been the most outspoken skeptic of President Tsai’s degree validity. Peng frequently devotes hour-long episodes of his popular True Voice of Taiwan program to the thesis controversy which earned him a criminal defamation complaint by Tsai, leading to Peng’s fugitive status. Because the Republic of China in-exile is not recognized by the United States as a sovereign nation there is no extradition treaty, thus giving Peng a safe haven in California. Tsai’s effort to imprison Peng have resulted in the non-renewal of his ROC passport in an attempt to force the United States to expel Peng.

Peng has fought back in ROC courts, without success. The recent dismissal ruling told Peng to take his legal battle with Haynes to the United Kingdom. The Taipei court noted Peng would have difficulty enforcing his judgment in Taiwan if he won his case and cited an undue burden on Haynes to defend himself because of international travel costs.

The decision explained the court’s reasoning.

“The defendant is not a citizen of Taiwan, and his listed residence is in London, which is outside the jurisdiction of Taiwan’s courts. The defendant does not have a residence in Taiwan, making it difficult to directly assert that Taiwan’s courts have international jurisdiction over the defendant in this private law dispute. Furthermore, if this case were to proceed in this court, the delivery of litigation documents to the defendant would have to be carried out through diplomatic channels, resulting in lengthy delays and an unpredictable duration for the litigation process, potentially causing procedural delays and a lack of procedural efficiency.”

“Additionally, the defendant is not a Taiwanese citizen, does not speak Chinese, and is not familiar with the written Chinese language, making it difficult for him to understand or use the language of Taiwan’s courts. Translation of relevant litigation documents would be required, which is highly inconvenient. The defendant has the right to appear in court to defend himself, but if he is required to respond to this lawsuit in Taiwan, he would have to deal with the inconvenience of cross-border communication, document delivery, and additional time, effort, and expense, which could significantly hinder his right to defend himself. Even if the defendant were to appear in court personally, he would have to bear additional high costs for travel to Taiwan, which would affect the fairness between the parties and infringe on their litigation rights.”

“Moreover, it is unclear whether the plaintiff’s claims have merit before the substantive examination of this case by the court. In the interest of fairness, the plaintiff should bear the inconvenience of litigating in the defendant’s place of residence, allowing the defendant to respond to the lawsuit in a familiar environment and language, and avoiding procedural difficulties that could affect his substantive and procedural rights, in accordance with the principle of equity. In general, the plaintiff should have made adequate preparations before filing the lawsuit and not done so hastily or without due consideration. However, the defendant is in a passive position, and if he has never met the plaintiff or engaged in any economic transactions with him, suddenly receiving documents from a foreign court would be confusing and potentially lead to a surprise attack. In order to ensure procedural fairness for both parties, it is appropriate for the plaintiff to file the lawsuit in the defendant’s place of residence, balancing the interests of both parties.”

“Furthermore, since the plaintiff has not provided any evidence that the defendant has any assets in Taiwan, and the plaintiff has declared his willingness to provide a guarantee and requests provisional enforcement, it would be difficult to enforce any judgments obtained by the plaintiff in Taiwan against the defendant, who does not reside in Taiwan and has no property in Taiwan. The plaintiff may also have to go through additional procedures, such as applying to a foreign court for recognition of a foreign judgment, making Taiwan an unsuitable and inconvenient forum for international jurisdiction.”

“Upon further investigation, although the plaintiff claims that the defendant created false documents in the course of his work and provided them to Taiwan’s representative office in the UK, the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, and this court, resulting in the plaintiff being prosecuted and a warrant being issued for his arrest, the defendant’s actions and the consequences thereof took place within the jurisdiction of this court. However, the documents related to Tsai Ing-wen’s academic credentials are stored in the archives of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the process of creating the documents and their underlying materials took place within the UK. The defendant is an employee of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and his involvement in providing documents to Taiwan’s representative office in the UK was incidental to his official duties. The defendant had no involvement in how the documents were used by Taiwan’s representative office in the UK or the consequences thereof, making it unfair for the defendant to be sued in Taiwan and potentially resulting in a surprise attack.”

“Furthermore, the documents in question date back more than 40 years, and it is uncertain whether the holders of these documents can be compelled to provide them as evidence in this court. As the relevant primary evidence is not located within Taiwan, the country’s connection to and interest in the dispute are weak. Conducting the litigation in Taiwan would be highly inconvenient for both the investigation of evidence and the parties’ ability to present their case, and it would be more appropriate and efficient to proceed in a UK court, which is better positioned to uncover the truth of the matter, save time, effort, and costs in the investigation of evidence, and promote procedural efficiency. If the case were to be heard in a Taiwanese court with weak jurisdictional connections, not only would it be manifestly unfair for the defendant to have to travel to Taiwan to respond to the lawsuit, spending time and effort in the process, but it would also lead to delays in the litigation and the inefficient use of judicial resources. It is therefore difficult to argue that there is a reasonable basis for Taiwan’s courts to exercise international jurisdiction over this case. In accordance with the principle of forum non conveniens, Taiwan’s courts should refuse to exercise jurisdiction even if they have international jurisdiction over the case.”

“Consequently, in terms of balancing the interests of the parties involved in this case, taking into account factors such as substantive fairness, judicial efficiency, convenience in investigating evidence, and the effectiveness of the judgment, the United Kingdom should be recognized as the place with the closest connection, and UK law should be applied substantively. It would be more appropriate for the case to be heard and applied by a UK court. Otherwise, if the scope of the tortious act is expanded indefinitely, it would violate the aforementioned principle of the closest connection and also infringe on the basic litigation principles for the original defendant.”

“In addition, even though the plaintiff claims that the defendant’s tortious acts and consequences occurred within the jurisdiction of this court in Taiwan, the right to sue is a constitutionally protected right of the people. However, due to the public nature of the state’s litigation resources, adjudicating foreign-related civil disputes that lack substantive connection with the exercise of Taiwan’s sovereignty, or whose adjudicative jurisdiction may not be recognized by the courts in the defendant’s domicile or where the property is located, or where the defendant has no property in Taiwan and thus cannot enforce the judgment, would result in a waste of judicial resources.”

Dennis Peng has appealed the decision while he explores his litigation options in the United Kingdom. A handful of Tsai thesis-related cases are currently pending before the Information Review Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal arising from Freedom of Information Act denials.

Information Commissioner John Edwards uses ‘frivolous’ tactic to refuse Freedom of Information requests in Tsai Ing-wen thesis controversy

United Kingdom Information Commissioner John Edwards and his official statement about non-enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act concerning Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s controversial PhD thesis. (credits: Information Commissioner’s Office)

John Edwards came to his job as United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner from New Zealand where he established a reputation for data protection in a similar post. However, now on the other side of the equator and tasked with enforcing the Freedom of Information Act, Edwards is evidently having a hard time adjusting to public transparency in his new role. Edwards arrived at the Information Commissioner’s Office inheriting a small army of subordinates, ongoing cases, and a fast-growing logistical nightmare over a 1983 PhD thesis that lots of people had questions about.

Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s controversial PhD degree from the University of London triggered a flood of Freedom of Information requests following her tardy submission in June 2019 of her thesis to the London School of Economics Library, thirty-five years late.

Because of delay and unresponsiveness of the University of London, non-compliance with the FOI by the London School of Economics, and general foot-dragging by the ICO, the numerous information requests took their time winding through the beaucratic system and tribunal courts. As the public controvery over Tsai Ing-wen’s thesis has grown, additional information requests have continued to be made. Consequently the UL, the LSE, the ICO, and more recently the British Library, have adopted blanket refusals to answer questions or provide requested information.

Because a rationale was needed to deny FOI requests from the public, the British institutions involved adopted a common excuse, the numerous requests were labeled “vexatious.” To support the blanket refusals Edwards and his crew adopted the “vexatious” strategy carte blanche blaming a “concerted campaign” to harass two governments, Tsai Ing-wen, and most recently the British Library.

The new vexatious strategy worked, being adopted by the FOI website What Do They Know. The schools began refusing information requests as vexatious and John Edwards kept the lid on the bubbling pot. However, ICO determinations of vexatiousness started hitting the Information Review Tribunal forcing a judicial look at the new blanket refusal policy. The first case to reach the Tribunal upheld Edwards’ determination. However, as two more vexatious cases were filed with the Information Review Tribunal from the public, the Upper Tribunal signaled the tide may be turning. The Upper Tribunal granted permission to appeal citing a likelihood of prevailing by the appellant.

The setback to the ICO blanket refusal strategy of vexatiousness required a new rationale for non-compliance with the FOI disclosure requirements. Edwards tasked one of his senior subordinates, Roger Cawthorne, with the assignment of disposing of thesis information requests.

Cawthorne, who was recently overruled by Tribunal Judge Alison McKenna in a thesis case involving the London School of Economics, took to his new duties with enthusiasm and insulting statements to refused requesters. Cawthorne and Edwards have found a new excuse when vexatiousness cannot be established. Now, information requests are being refused for being “frivolous” in nature and then treated as though they were vexatious.

Commissioner Edwards cannot quite keep his story straight however. On one hand, Edwards complains about the heavy volume of requests, even requesting extensions of time to respond; while on the other hand, he blames a “small number” for the large workload facing his office from the thesis controversy.

A look at two recent ICO refusals flesh out the new strategy. Both cases involved information requests concerning verification of diplomas.

In case IC-225533-Z1T9: “The Commissioner declines to consider this complaint further or issue a decision because he considers the complaint to be frivolous.”

“The ICO must consider the effect that dealing with such complaints will have, both in relation to our duty to make effective use of our limited resources, and in ensuring that this office and the Act are not brought into disrepute by progressing complaints which do not justify serious consideration.”

“It is also evident from your correspondence that you are fully aware that the University has placed this information into the public domain – but made your request anyway. In the circumstances we consider that the request has not been made with a genuine intent to seek information, rather it has been made to annoy, harass and otherwise burden the University. The fact that whatdotheyknow.com has suspended your account strongly indicates that this request has not been made to obtain information.”

“Given that you are already aware that the information is in the public domain, we consider that this complaint lacks any serious purpose. As the information is already available to you, the only possible purpose of submitting this complaint is to annoy, harass or otherwise burden the University. We also consider that dealing with the complaint would have no value. Even if [sic] were prepared to accept that the request had sufficient value and was made with a serious purpose, the University would still not be required to provide the information as it is already in the public domain and thus reasonably accessible to you. Therefore investigating the complaint would be futile as it could not put you in a more advantageous position.”

“We are satisfied that this request and associated complaint represents an abuse of the right of access to information. Dealing with such a complaint seriously risks us being seen as condoning such behaviour – which would bring our office and the legislation more generally, into disrepute. We have finite resources that we do not wish to squander on complaints which do not deserve serious treatment. Not only would dealing with your complaint be a waste of our own resources, the associated investigation would require the University to divert resources away from its core functions in order to respond. Even a minimal diversion of resources would be wholly disproportionate and unjustified when a complaint is so completely lacking in merit as this one is.”

In case IC-217188-Z7S0: “Despite claiming, falsely, to the University that your complaint was “not relatef [sic] to Tsai.” It is evident from your grounds of complaint that your request and the subsequent complaint are very much related to President Tsai and the ongoing attempts, by a small number of individuals to discredit her academic credentials.”

“You are plainly aware of the stance that both the University, whatdotheyknow.com and the Commissioner have previously taken in respect of such requests. As such, we do not consider that a reasonable person would have expected such a request – or any complaint associated with it – to have been met with a different response.”

“We are therefore of the view that your request and subsequent complaint have been made for the purpose of causing annoyance and of wasting the finite resources of both the University and the ICO.”

“Furthermore, we note that your grounds of complaint accuses the ICO on numerous occasions of being “corrupt” and having dealt with complaints “irrationally”. These are baseless allegations whose sole justification appears to be that you disagree with previous regulatory stances that we have taken in respect of similar complaints – stances which have been upheld by an independent body (the Tribunal) on appeal.”

“We would suggest that no reasonable person would bring a complaint to an organisation in which they apparently have such little belief – nor would it be reasonable for that an organisation to regard a complaint submitted in such circumstances as having a serious purpose. The Commissioner has a duty to use his finite resources wisely and prefers to prioritise complaints from individuals genuinely seeking information – as opposed to using the legislation as a platform to promote baseless conspiracy theories.”

The former New Zealander administrator seems to have overlooked one thing. Under United Kingdom laws allowing appellants a fair hearing of their case, the opportunity to rebut a charge of frivolousness requires a fuller judicial review of the thesis controversy to advocates seeking the truth of the matter. John Edwards may be opening the door he is trying so hard to hold shut.

J. Edgar Hoover ordered agents to focus on murder charge against Marcus Garvey in federal investigation of United Negro Improvement Association according to former secret files

Coversheet of Marcus Garvey’s file at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and parade picture of Marcus Garvey (credits: FBI/public domain)

As the federal investigation of Marcus Garvey tightened with the approach of his trial for mail fraud, J. Edgar Hoover, a deputy director of the Bureau of Investigation, told agents to concentrate on linking Garvey to the New Year Day murder of Rev. James W. H. Eason in New Orleans. Eason, Garvey’s chief rival, had recently agreed to testify against Garvey at the upcoming mail fraud trial. Eason was shot outside a church where he had just spoken. Three men, members of a private police force of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, were identifed by witnesses as the shooters.

Hoover, in a number two position at the Bureau of Investigation, oversaw the special agents conducting the field work. Hiring non-white agents was a big event in the Bureau’s discriminatory employment history. Two agents led the half-dozen black men hired to penetrate the U.N.I.A. Mortimer Davis and James Amos became the lead detectives and worked closely with the Justice Department attorneys working on the case.

Davis was an agent of the Justice Department from 1917 to 1925. In 1954, he was elected president of the Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Amos was a former bodyguard to President Theodore Roosevelt. Amos joined the Bureau in 1921 to work on the Garvey case. Amos was a good fit and remained with the Bureau until 1953. Amos was featured on the cover of Ebony magazine in 1947.

James Eason was to be a star witness. The former American Leader of the U.N.I.A. had been unceremoniously dumped at the August 1922 convention and used the last months of his life traveling and speaking out against Marcus Garvey for cheating people with false promises.

Hoover was furious at the loss of a key witness just as the fraud trial was to begin. Hoover wanted one of the suspected shooters to implicate Garvey in ordering the killing. The two men arrested by New Orleans police, Constatine Dyer and William Shakespeare, put the blame on Esau Ramos, the head of the local U.N.I.A. police unit. Ramos, also known as John Jefferies, a fugitive wanted for armed robbery in New York, had aleady skipped town.

Hoover ordered a nationwide manhunt. Ramos was traced to Philadelphia, then to New York and finally to Detroit where he was captured. New Orleans authorities were content with Dyer and Shakespeare and did not want the expense and trouble of extraditing Ramos so Hoover had him sent to New York to answer the armed robbery charges. Amos and Davis were tasked with breaking Ramos and getting testimony against Garvey. A once secret, hundred year-old Bureau report by Davis tells the story about an interview with Ramos in the office of the U.S. Attorney in New York. Ramos is referred to as Jeffries.

“Jeffries is willing and anxious to testify against GARVEY but wants a promise of a suspended sentence. Mr. Mattuck advised him that while he can promise nothing he will be glad to make representations to Judge Talley…to the effect that he has assisted the Government. Jeffries thereupon agreed to have his sentence postponed until the Black Star Line Case come up in the United States Courts.”

“Agent and Agent Amos again interviewed him at the Tombs Prison.”i

“Jeffries states that while in Philadelphia last year he received a letter from Garvey stating that EASON was to speak there and that “his meeting must be broken up or he must not return to New York alive.” Jeffries states he and members of the African Union succeeded in breaking up the meeting, which was held in one of the Philadelphia churches, but Eason was left unharmed, subsequently Jeffries was informed that the New York Police were looking for him, so he came to New York and saw Garvey, who advised him to proceed to New Orleans and change his name. Garvey gave him $100 from the treasury of the U.N.I.A. for the trip. In New Orleans, states Jeffries, he was informed by a letter over Garvey’s personal signature, that Eason was to speak there on a certain date and instructing Jeffries that “Eason had turned state’s evidence against him, and must not be allowed to return to New York alive.”….Jeffries states that Dyer is the man who did the shooting that Shakespeare was with him and while he did not shoot Eason, assisted in every other way possible in the act.”ii

“Jeffries further states that if he gains his freedom he will willingly accompany Government Agents to various large cities and point out to them where large quantities of guns and ammunition have been stored by the branches of the African Legion. He mentions particularly New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. He, himself, he states, made many of the purchases and states that in New York he was accompanied on these trips by VERNAL J. WILLIAMS, Garvey’s attorney….In Philadelphia he states he was negotiating for the purchase of bombs from an ammunition concern…but the prices were too high….The plan, in general was to make small purchases in various places and send them to the U.N.I.A. Headquarters. They were then split up and divided among trusted members of the Legion, who, after taking a solemn oath of fidelity, removed the ammunition.”iii

“Garvey, he states, personally supervised many of these transactions and was always kept inform of same. In fact, much of the money for the purchases came direct from his office.”

“Jeffries refused to sign any statement, in fact will not talk when notes are made of his remarks. He states, however, that he will take the witness stand against Garvey if there is any assurance of his receiving a light sentence in the State Courts. Also, he is worried over the fact that many of his admissions may lead to his arrest in various cities.”

“The officers of the U.N.I.A. in New York have learned of Jeffries’ appearance in the United States Attorney’s office here, and our undercover man has reported a move on foot to bribe him into silence. Jeffries has stated to us, however, that he will refuse such advances. He showed me upon my last visit, a letter from DR. FRANCIS of Philadelphia, urging him not to testify against Garvey and promising him aid after he goes to prison.”iv

Bureau agents in Philadelphia began visiting stores mentioned by Ramos. One on Market Street had a customer the day before that was of interest. “He stated…a negro who spoke with a foreign accent and was likely a native of the West Indies, came to his Army and Navy Store and stated he was in the market for machine guns and Luger automatic pistols in large quantities and asked if same could be boxed or crated so they would pass the U.S. Customs without be detected, that he wanted to ship them to South America.”v

The Bureau never did recover any of the purported weapons claimed by Ramos and he never implicated Garvey in Eason’s murder on the record. Instead, he went to prison on the armed robbery charge and faded from history.

Hoover’s frustration at not pinning Eason’s death on Garvey led to a full adoption of the end justifies means philosophy that led to the crimes of COINTELPRO and decades of official misdeeds during Hoover’s long tenure as FBI director.

Portions of the article have been excerpted from GARVEY: The Case Against the Provisional President of Africa. The book is available from Amazon and in ebook from Kindle.

iFBI Vault, 190-1781-6-4B, p. 85, May 10, 1923

iiFBI Vault, 190-1781-6-4B, p. 86, May 10, 1923

iiiFBI Vault, 190-1781-6-4B, p. 87, May 10, 1923 Vernal Williams (1896-1952) Born in Jamaica. Assistant Counsul General of U.N.I.A. Resigned in 1923 after becoming disallusioned with Garvey.

ivFBI Vault, 190-1781-6-4B, p. 88, May 10, 1923

vFBI Vault, 190-1781-6-4B, p. 99, May 15, 1923

New book details J. Edgar Hoover’s war against Marcus Garvey from once secret Bureau of Investigation files

Book cover of GARVEY: The Case Against the Provisional President of Africa by Michael Richardson

J. Edgar Hoover’s efforts to imprison Marcus Garvey is a story unknown to many. While Hoover’s dirty tricks against more recent black leaders like Martin Luther King or Malcolm X are well documented, few people realize that the roots of Hoover’s clandestine misdeeds go back one hundred years to the prosecution of Garvey for mail fraud.

Before Hoover viewed Garvey as a fraudster, and worse, he considered Garvey a radical black nationalist and danger to the public order. Hoover’s inability to imprison Garvey for anything but fraud led to the crimes of COINTELPRO and other illegal counterintelligence operations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation decades later.

Marcus Garvey’s back-to-Africa campaign, which never really caught on, established Garvey as a recognized founder of black nationalism. Over the years since Garvey’s death in 1940, he has grown in status to become a widely recognized black power icon. Garvey’s color scheme of red, black and green became a cultural marker as his fame spread. Garvey’s image adorns money, postage stamps, and statues in several countries.

The book, which took five years to research and write, is an outgrowth of an earlier book project, FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story. FRAMED explored the Nebraska prosecution of two Black Panther leaders, Edward Poindexter and David Rice [Wopashitwe Eyen Mondo we Langa] for the murder of an Omaha patrolman in 1970. In the course of working on FRAMED, the once-secret FBI files on Marcus Garvey came to light. Over a thousand pages of confidential reports by a half-dozen especially recruited black undercover agents detail Hoover’s efforts to lock Garvey up.

In the course of investigating Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association the undercover agents came to believe that Garvey also ordered the murder of a rival, Rev. James Eason. The story is largely set in Harlem but follows Garvey’s travels around the United States pursued by federal sleuths.

Garvey’s weekly Negro World newspaper provides a counterpoint to the secret Bureau reports and gives a richly textured view of Harlem, one hundred years ago. A powerful orator, Garvey had a devoted following and numerous critics, including W. E. B. Du Bois. Garvey also clashed with the African Blood Brotherhood over the back-to-Africa campaign and struck up a tenuous relationship with the Ku Klux Klan. Garvey’s black separatism lead to an alliance with segregationists in a tangled web of confusion.

Marcus Garvey’s current fame, which continues to grow, overlooks many personal inconsistencies and contradictions that cost him followers during his lifetime. Although Garvey’s black nationalism gained him lasting fame, few now know that the Negro World became a leading purveyor of hair straighteners and skin bleaches.

GARVEY: The Case Against the Provisional President of Africa is not a biography, nor a complete history. Instead, the book is a compelling account of a criminal investigation and trial, steeped in racism, hypocrisy and intrigue. GARVEY is an inside and upclose look at an America long gone, extracted from primary sources and told as it happened and fills important gaps in the story of the Provisional President of Africa.

GARVEY: The Case Against the Provisional President of Africa is available in print from Amazon and also available in Kindle.

Taiwan independence activist Chilly Chen forces public question on Chinese hero worship at Chiang Kai-shek statue

Republic of China in-exile security officers and honor guards subdue Taiwan Republic chairman Chilly Chen at statue of Chiang Kai-shek in Taipei memorial shrine. (credit: Taiwan Republic)

Taiwan Republic chairman Chilly Chen, a veteran Taiwan independence activist, has once again forced a public discussion of the practice of Chinese hero worship of Chiang Kai-shek by the Republic of China in-exile government controlling Taiwan. Chen makes periodic visits to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall where red paint gets splashed on a giant statue of Chiang to symbolize the blood of the dictator’s many victims.

As with many of Chen’s demonstrations for Taiwan independence, it ended with Chilly being roughed up and hauled out by police and security officers. Chen’s group, Taiwan Republic, is dedicated to liberating Taiwan from the grip of the Republic of China in-exile, an occupation government that has controlled the island for seventy years since the end of World War II.

The United States imposed Chiang’s regime after the war as a temporary occupation government of the former Japanese territory, then called Formosa. Chiang’s loss of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and the Cold War led to America’s offer of the island as a refuge for Chiang and his followers. Local resistance to Chiang’s harsh Kuomintang rule led to four decades of brutal martial law, only lifted in the mid-1980s.

While Taiwan has been mired in “political purgatory” in the words of the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals by a strategic ambiguity, small groups like Taiwan Republic have labored for independence from the imposed Chinese government. Long years of misinformation and uncertainty have left almost everyone confused about Taiwan’s international status left unresolved by the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Many in America confuse the exiled Republic of China with Taiwan, a mistake not made by Chilly Chen who yearns for his own national flag and sovereign nation. With the current occupation government, Taiwan is banned from the United Nations, kept out of the World Health Organization and Interpol, and forced to compete in the Olympics as Chinese Taipei.

More seriously, because the Republic of China in-exile constitution lays claim to the territory of its former home, Taiwan is threaten by the People’s Republic of China which views the island as unfinished business of the civil war left over from 1949.

Although some argue the Chiang statue is more of a tourist attraction than a shrine, the folks at Taiwan Republic want it torn down. Although the Republic of China government keeps the Chinese hero worship of Chiang a prominent Taipei attraction, the courage of Chilly Chen to put himself in harm’s way for principle shows a real hero.

Tsai Ing-wen’s suspension notice lists Cornell University but University of London is not mentioned on New York attorney disciplinary report

Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen and her New York attorney suspension notice (credits: Voice of America/New York Court System)

Few people know that Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen is a New York licensed attorney. Fewer people know that President Tsai’ license to practice law was suspended in 2014. Tsai’s official bio statement does not mention she is an attorney nor does Wikipedia disclose her status as a suspended lawyer. The 3rd Appellate Division of the New York Unified Court System issued the suspension on March 3, 2014 for an unspecified reason. While the attorney being disciplined is informed of the reason, the public is not informed unless disclosure is ordered by the court.

Curiously, although President Tsai was awarded a PhD from the University of London in 1984, Tsai, in 1987, listed Cornell University as her law school, where she earned a Masters degree, instead of the more recent and advanced degree in legal studies as is the customary practice. Maybe Tsai forgot about her University of London degree? She forgot about the UL when preparing her official bio, which erroneously states she got her PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science instead.

President Tsai’s disciplinary period has almost run its course and she will be eligible for reinstatement in August 2023, according to the suspension notice. How serious is Tsai’s suspension? Without an explanation from Tsai, the public will never know because of court rules.

Ellen Young, a Taiwanese-American who served a number of years on the New York Supreme Court Disciplinary Committee, explained the four levels of discipline for New York attorneys.

Young said in an interview that there are four levels of punishment for lawyers. The first level is written notice and persuasion, the second level is reprimand in court, the third level is suspension, and the final fourth level is to revoke the license.

According to Young’s description, in the first level of punishment, the Disciplinary Committee will question the accused lawyer based on the evidence provided by the complainant and ask the lawyer to give a written reply. If the lawyer has indeed committed misconduct after investigation, the committee will provide an opinion on how to deal with it.

If a lawyer makes a serious mistake, the committee can formally punish the lawyer through judicial procedures. The second level of discipline is that the lawyer will be summoned to the Disciplinary Committee for questioning and investigation, and the process will be recorded. The committee can dismiss the complaint, or go forward to suspension. Finally, the attorney can be disbarred and expelled from the state bar.

In President Tsai’s case, the discipline stopped at the third level with suspension and nothing more is known from the New York Court System, although non-payment of the annual fee might be the cause.

Perhaps, since President Tsai was seeking a New York license, she thought mentioning Cornell would be more suitable than the United Kingdom schools she attended and received her PhD from. Or, if there was a problem with the UL degree, like an unfinished thesis, it would not have been such a good idea to mention the PhD degree on her attorney application. Only Tsai can tell the public why she was suspended as a lawyer and why she listed Cornell instead of the LSE or the UL as her law school.

President Tsai’s suspended law license is one more unanswered question surrounding an ongoing controversy dubbed “Thesisgate” by critics. Tsai’s tardy submission of her thesis to the LSE Library in June 2019 is the first time the public had a chance to review the dissertation which resembles a draft document with pagination problems, footnote issues, and handwritten notations including a question mark. Now the public wants to know about the suspended law license and why the University of London was not listed on Tsai’s disciplinary report. If answers are not forthcoming from Tsai, the controversy will continue to be kept alive.

Julian Lin tells her story in second round of Taiwan Civil Government political fraud trial

Julian Lin at the podium in Washington appearing on “Roll Call” election program, at POLITICO Powerbook event, and the National Press Club. (credits: Taiwan Civil Government)

The long-running political fraud trial against leaders of Taiwan Civil Government, an advocacy group, entered a new phase with a second trial which opened in Courtroom Seven on the second floor of the Taiwan High Court’s Criminal Court Building on April 12, 2023.

Five defendants appeared, although the death of purported ringleader Roger Lin ended the prosecution’s primary case. Lin and the others were accused of deceiving TCG members for donations with alleged false claims about the benefits of the TCG identity card and vanity license plates.

Taiwan Civil Government was formed by Lin to support litigation and lobbying efforts in the United States to resolve Taiwan’s international status. Seven decades of “strategic ambiguity” and occupation by the exiled Republic of China have left islanders confused about the correct path to sovereignty after Japan surrendered claim to Taiwan, then called Formosa, at the San Francisco Peace Treaty which ended World War II.

Julian Lin, widow of Roger, came to the attention of the ROC with the filing of Roger & Julian Lin vs. Republic of China and the United States of America in the District of Columbia federal court challenging the ROC Nationality Act which stripped Formosans of their Japanese nationality. Soon Julian Lin became the public face of TCG in the United States, leading delegations to meet with news media, politicians, and an expensive campaign to gain favor with Donald Trump.

The TCG goal is to rid Taiwan of the ROC with the help of the United States and form a Taiwanese government under protection of the American military. The TCG overture to Trump and members of Congress came to a crashing halt at a Heritage Foundation event to honor Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross following a raid of TCG headquarters in Taiwan in May 2018.

Both Lins were held five months incommunicado in pre-trial detention. Bail was only granted after TCG bought a full-page ad in the New York Times complaining about the no-bond lockdown. Eventually, after a three-year long trial, Julian Lin was convicted.

During the long court proceedings, ROC prosecutors obtained a demolition order over a zoning violation and tore down the TCG headquarters, depriving the group of its base of operations where regular training sessions where conducted.

In addition to locking up its leaders and tearing down its headquarters, the ROC undertook a campaign of harrassment of TCG members, including multiple interrogations and surveillance of group parades and events.

Following the November 2019 death of Roger Lin the advocacy group split with “Prime Minister” Tsai Tsai-yuan, a co-defendant, heading a faction called TCG 3.0 which accused the Lins of diverting money for their own use. Tsai was eventually acquitted while Lin was convicted of fraudulent claims.

Now, after four years of silence, Julian has decided to speak out and tell her story from the defendant table.

“After the first instance judgment, I was convicted of one hundred and fifty-three counts of fraud, one hundred and thirty-six counts of aggravated fraud, ten counts of money laundering, a total of two hundred and ninety-nine counts, with a nineteen-year sentence.”

“Four hundred and forty-eight people were asked whether the defendant was guilty or innocent, and two hundred of them insisted that they were not deceived. The prosecutor or the police used inductive, hypothetical questions to ask witnesses, and the answers they got were unfair to the defendant. I have learned about the false allegations made by the prosecutor, and what wrongful decisions the judge made.”

“I never heard Roger Lin claim to be authorized by the United States Military Government….People in occupied territories must be allowed to form a civil government after the war. There must be a civil government to protect welfare and human rights”

“I never handed landlord You Xiangjing [co-defendant] any income….I never did transfer any business or money.”

“I asked the court to investigate Roger Lin’s U.S. bank account. The account was used to push related political activities for legitimate purposes, not money laundering.”

“Most witnesses were only statements by the Bureau of Investigation or police….No right of cross-examination.”

“I had no fraudulent intent.”

Julian maintains her activities with the TCG are protected by the ROC Constitution. “Article 14 of the Constitution stipulates that the people, have freedom of association, designed to safeguard the people for a specific purpose, the right to form associations of common will and to participate in their activities, and to ensure the survival of the group. Self-determination of internal organization and affairs….protects the people to be a group.”

“TCG never advertised it was authorized by the U.S. military government or never said that “The U.S. military junta will transfer power to the Taiwan Civil Government” and other remarks the Taiwan Civil government is about to come to power.”

However, the TCG identity card, the subject of much debate, was watermarked USMG and repeated references to the United States Military Government in the TCG training classes left some group members confused. Annual streetside presentations to the American Institute on Taiwan kept many hoping the United States would recognize TCG as the new civil government.

Julian Lin’s defense brings the whole case down to a simple question. Did Roger and Julian Lin engage in an elaborate, sophisticated international swindle with false claims or was the couple a pair of dreamers whose vision for Taiwan’s future got ahead of reality with the help of people like Neil Hare and Shelley Hymes, the TCG lobbyists in Washington. If there was a swindle, who swindled whom?

Taiwan Republic activist Chilly Chen charges Ma Ying-jeou with treason over China trip in complaint to ROC prosecutors

Taiwan Republic activist Chilly Chen was thrown out of Taoyuan Airport twice protesting former Republic of China in-exile President Ma Ying-jeou’s trip to the People’s Republic of China. (credits: CTI/TVBS screenshots)

Former Republic of China in-exile President Ma Ying-jeou has been in the international news for his return to his certified birth city of Shenzhen, in the People’s Republic of China. Ma seemed to confirm his PRC nationality with his remark “We are all Chinese” while on tour in China. When Ma ran for office in the exiled Republic of China he claimed he was born in Hong Kong and raised in China, however when his daughter Lesley was born in Boston, Massachusetts, while Ma attended Harvard University, certified on her birth certificate that he was born in China.

Ma’s apparent capitulation to the PRC’s claim to Taiwan during his China trip has triggered a complaint of treason against the ROC by Taiwan Republic activist Chilly Chen. Chilly made his opposition to Ma’s trip clear at Taoyuan Airport upon Ma’s departure to China, when he led a group of demonstrators to shout at Ma before airport police bodily evicted Chilly and other group members from the terminal building.

Chilly Chen was on hand again upon Ma’s return to tell the former ROC leader to “get lost.” Once again Chen was thrown out of the airport terminal by force. Now Chen has taken his unhappiness with Ma’s trip to China to the High Prosecutor’s office in Taipei.

Members of the Taiwan Republic held a rally outside the High Prosecutors’ Office in Taipei, carrying signs that read: “Mainland refers to China, which is a foreign country,” “Taiwan and China are separate, each is its own distinct country” and “Death sentence to Ma for treason.” The sidewalk demonstration included guerilla theater of a person wearing a Ma mask being handcuffed by two men.

While in China, Ma on told students at Hunan University in Changsha that “our country” amended the Republic of China Constitution, and that “our country was divided into two parts — the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. Both are our Republic of China, both are China.”

Ma said “it is a clear fact” that the constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), amended in 1982, stipulates that “Taiwan is part of the sacred territory of the People’s Republic of China.”

Inside the prosecution office Chen cited Article 104 of the ROC Criminal Code, which says that “any person colluding with a foreign state or its agent with intent to subject territory of the Republic of China to such state or other state shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.”

Chen said that Ma was “conspiring to undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty and hand control of our nation’s territories to China.”

“Taiwan and the PRC are two separate countries, each has its own government, citizens, territory and sovereign rights.”

Up until now, Chilly Chen has worked the streets with his activism and protests. The Taiwan Republic group has moved to a new level of advocacy by calling on the ROC to police itself. The Taiwanese public is now watching to see what the High Prosecutor will do about Ma’s speech appeasing Chinese claims on Taiwan.