Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen set off an academic firestorm in June 2019 when she submitted her PhD thesis to the London School of Economics Library, thirty-five years late. Newsman Dennis Peng, himself a PhD, questioned the tardy submission and has waged a relentless campaign for the truth. Peng even traveled from Taipei to London in October 2019 to examine the controversial thesis. Now Peng finds himself facing five years in prison for his efforts.
The Taipei District Prosecutors Office on March 31 indicted the internet talk show host for aggravated defamation to influence Tsai’s 2020 re-election, a crime punishable under ROC’s archaic laws. Peng will not be allowed a jury trial, the exiled Chinese government that occupies Taiwan does not uphold the jury system
Prosecutors say they went through the relevant documents and evidence before determining that Tsai completed her doctoral dissertation, passed an oral viva examination, and was awarded a doctoral degree from the University of London in 1984. In September 2019, Tsai made a complaint against Peng and two other professors, Ho De-fen and Hwan Lin, after the controversy erupted. Prosecutors waited for over a year before calling Ho and Peng into court for questioning. Ho refused to answer the subpoena while Peng showed up at court only to refuse to answer questions, instead holding a news conference to question the validity of Tsai’s doctoral degree.
Peng has now been indicted for aggravated defamation because he allegedly failed to check his facts before reporting. Prosecutors decided professors Ho and Lin made an effort to verify their criticism and declined to prosecute them. Peng has kept up his criticism of Tsai’s thesis on his popular show “True Voice of Taiwan.”
Peng’s efforts to learn the truth about Tsai’s London School of Economics thesis, entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions,” resulted in Tsai’s academic records in Taiwan to be sealed as a state secret for fifty years until 2049.
In a statement, Peng remains undeterred by the criminal indictment: “I hope that by being prosecuted, the whole case can be transferred to the court for a public trial. There is no personal interest in investigating this case. It is purely based on academic conscience and value. If I lose the case because of the justice under control of the president, I will go to jail with honor.”
Dennis Peng holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Peng has taught at the National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Journalism for 20 years and served as its director. Peng has advised on over 100 theses and says he has never encountered a situation like that of Tsai’s thesis.
When Peng answered the subpoena he boldly dared the prosecution: “For my crimes listed above, I am asking that the prosecutor sentence me to death. If that is what it takes for this case to be seen through, so be it. For the greater good of this country.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Information Review Tribunal in the United Kingdom is dealing with two pending Freedom of Information cases to determine the identity and nature of the October 16, 1983 viva examination of Tsai. The University of London, which issued Tsai’s degree because the London School of Economics was not approved for doctoral degrees, has been stonewalling on naming the thesis examiners whom Tsai Ing-wen also refuses to identify. Dennis Peng continues to ask if the PhD degree is legitimate and President Tsai passed her viva examination, why will she not name the thesis examiners?