Indicted newsman Dennis Peng forces discovery from prosecutor of President Tsai Ing-wen’s secret that there was no external PhD thesis examination

Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen and True Voice of Taiwan host Professor Dennis Peng are at odds over her PhD degree. (credits: Voice of America/Central News Agency)

What began as a blatant attempt by Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen to silence her most vocal critic, backfired, with a stunning reversal and release of a secret she has long kept from the public. President Tsai made a criminal defamation complaint against Professor Dennis Peng, host of the popular internet news program “True Voice of Taiwan.” Peng has raised questions about the validity of the University of London PhD degree that Tsai received in 1984 after studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Professor Peng has has fought back against President Tsai’s attempt to imprison him for remarks about her LSE thesis. Peng has obtained from his prosecutor, through a pre-trial discovery order, a series of email exchanges between Kristen Chen, a “Liaison Officer” at the Investigation Bureau of the ROC Ministry of Justice, and Kevin Haynes of the “LSE Legal Team.” The go-between was Nicole Lee, the “Education Division Director” of the Taipei Representative Office in the United Kingdom.

Tsai set off an academic firestorm in Taiwan in June 2019 when she filed with the LSE Library, thirty-five years late, her tardy dissertation entitled “Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions.” The unbound thesis appears to be a draft document with pagination problems, footnote issues, and handwritten notations, including a question mark. Peng has been relentless in his drive to uncover the truth about events in London thirty-seven years ago.

Nicole Lee made the opening move by emailing Kevin Haynes, with whom Lee was obviously familiar. “I have been contacted by the Taiwanese judiciary institution, which is carrying out investigations into the case of President Tsai’s PhD qualification and thesis submission, and have been asked to obtain answers to ten questions.”

“I realize we have covered some of this ground before and am sorry to trouble you, but we would be extremely grateful if you to provide as much detail as possible and include an supporting documents that may be available.”

Growing impatient with Haynes’ slow response, Kristen Chen entered the conversation. “Thank you for dedicating your time and effort to help us sort things out.”

“It would be very appreciated if you could share with us the information you have already researched at your earliest convenience….I feel terribly sorry every time we put this burden on you.”

The back and forth email exchange between Chen, Lee, and Haynes, at the height of President Tsai’s reelection campaign, discusses what could be released without Tsai’s consent from her 278 page LSE student file with Haynes acknowledging he could answer some questions without Tsai’s consent. “If nothing else, it is difficult to deny her registration at LSE.”

While LSE was busy fending off questions from the public about President Tsai’s thesis, Haynes was busy answering Chen’s questions, although Chen had no warrant, court order, or written consent. Chen’s standing under the Freedom of Information Act was no different from the members of the public with information requests similar to Chen which were routinely denied. Unknown to Haynes, because the request had come from Lee at the “Taiwan Embassy” and Chen in Taiwan, was that the questions had been posed by Dennis Peng through his attorney. One of the questions Haynes did not need consent for was the identity of Tsai’s thesis examiners, despite the University of London’s repeated assertions that disclosure would breach Tsai’s privacy right.

According to Haynes, “It appears from her student file that MJE [Michael Elliott] and Professor Leonard H Leigh examined President’s Tsai’s thesis in October 1983.”

Michael Elliott was Tsai’s faculty advisor before she withdrew from LSE in November 1982. Elliot, who lacked a PhD himself, was briefly listed by the LSE Library as co-author of Tsai’s thesis when the phantom thesis emerged in 2019. Elliott could not have officially served as an external examiner of Tsai’s thesis and any role as internal examiner raises questions about his impartiality.

Professor Leigh, who taught criminal law at LSE, was eligible to have served as an internal examiner but not as an external examiner. The principle, to prevent academic fraud, is for at least one member of a doctoral examination viva panel to be from an external educational institution. However, the time-bound practice of external examiners was apparently not followed in Tsai’s case. The lack of an external thesis examiner and the tardy submission of what appears to be a draft dissertation suggest that ROC prosecutors may be knowingly pursing Professor Peng for criminal defamation without foundation for their case, which would be a political prosecution.

Peng will not get the benefit of a jury trial. The exiled Chinese government, headed by Tsai, has an antiquated justice system that does not allow juries in Taiwan. Peng can hope his case does not go the way of former ROC President Chen Shui-bian who was subjected to courtroom heckling, midnight court sessions, a substitute judge, and perjured testimony when he was convicted for alleged corruption. Peng can also hope that he does not end up like the Taiwan Civil Government political fraud defendants, caught up in a never-ending trial with multiple hearing adjournments stretching the criminal trial into a two-year long ordeal.

The disclosure to Chen of the identity of the thesis examiners occurred on December 17, 2020, along with other admissions by Haynes. To the question whether Tsai was enrolled at LSE when she submitted her thesis for consideration in June 1983, Haynes answered, “It appears not from her student file.” But, not to worry. “We understand it was not uncommon at the time of President Tsai’s period of study for PhD candidates in the UK universities to complete their thesis independently and be permitted to enter for examination.”

Meanwhile, the University of London stubbornly refuses to name the thesis examiners citing Tsai’s privacy, a view shared by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. A Freedom of Information appeal is pending before the Information Review Tribunal of the United Kingdom. A decision from the Tribunal is expected in June.

The revelation that there was no external examiner at Tsai Ing-wen’s viva examination of her thesis renews concerns about academic fraud. Tsai attended a school, the London School of Economics and Political Science, that could not issue its own doctoral degrees. Tsai was not enrolled in LSE at the time she submitted her thesis for review. Tsai’s advisor, Michael Elliott lacked a PhD degree. Now comes the admission by the LSE Legal Team that Tsai’s thesis examination lacked an external examiner. Throw in the tardy thesis to the mix and one is forced to wonder if the reason the University of London refuses to confirm the examiners’ identities has less to do with Tsai Ing-wen’s privacy and more to do with a cover-up by the academic gatekeeper of an unearned doctoral degree.

Author: richardsonreports

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

4 thoughts on “Indicted newsman Dennis Peng forces discovery from prosecutor of President Tsai Ing-wen’s secret that there was no external PhD thesis examination”

  1. It seems that Prof.Professor Leigh is still alive ( Better to contact him directly to ask, though not sure if he would like to help.


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