Information Review Tribunal puts ruling in Tsai Ing-wen thesis secrecy case on hold

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My attempt to learn the identity of two London School of Economics PhD thesis examiners has been a bumpy one. The latest development is a side trip in a British court on the topic of “territoriality”where I have to wait until October for an answer.

For those that have not been closely following the mystery of who approved Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s 1984 PhD thesis entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions” a little background is necessary.

President Tsai opened Pandora’s box in June 2019 when she belatedly, thirty-five years late, submitted her thesis to the LSE Library. At the time of Tsai’s graduation her thesis was to have been presented to the LSE Library for the permanent thesis collection. It was also to have been submitted to the University of London’s Senate House Library for cataloging and microfilming, which never happened. Finally, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library, the national law library, was to have a copy, which also never happened.

The thesis submitted by Tsai last summer has all the appearances of being a draft document. It is unsigned, has pagination and footnote issues, and contains handwritten notations including a question mark. It turns out that the London School of Economics was not accredited to award its own doctorate degrees and thus the University of London dispensed Tsai’s diploma based on the approval of two thesis examiners. Further, Tsai’s adviser, Michael Elliot, lacked a PhD degree himself.

I wondered who was it that approved the thesis and why was the dissertation missing from three libraries? The London School of Economics can’t or won’t say why it was not in the library except to assert they never had the thesis until 2019. LSE claims it lacks records about the viva or thesis oral examination other than the date, October 16, 1983, a Sunday.

The University of London, which does claim to hold the viva record, won’t say who the examiners were citing President Tsai’s right to privacy. For her part, Tsai has boasted about compliments from the thesis examiners although she refuses to name them.

The Information Commissioner’s Office agreed with the University of London that disclosing the names of the two examiners might cause Tsai “distress” and perhaps also to the examiners if they were still alive. However, if the thesis examiners liked Tsai’s thesis enough to compliment her it is difficult to understand where is the distress?

So I filed a lawsuit against the Information Commissioner of the United Kingdom to learn the identity of the two mystery examiners. The Freedom of Information Act of 2000 is open to anyone, according to the language of the statute. Further, the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has issued guidances and interpretations that support the notion that anyone, anywhere, may request public information in the United Kingdom.

However, Registrar R. Worth of the Information Review Tribunal is a vigilant gatekeeper and is concerned that I am not a United Kingdom resident. Worth has now issued a stay order freezing the case until October.

The Tribunal will, in other appeals, be considering the legal positions about territoriality.”

The Tribunal will expect to be able to update the parties to these proceedings in October 2020 about how the Tribunal has dealt with (or is dealing with) the territoriality issues.”

If the Tribunal restricts appeals to United Kingdom residents, contrary to the statutory language of the Freedom of Information Act, it will be denying information not only to me but also excluding the entire population of Taiwan from access to the court about President Tsai’s thesis.  Now that is something to be distressed about.

Author: richardsonreports

Author of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two Story.

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