London School of Economics fails to comply with Tribunal disclosure order in Tsai Ing-wen thesis examination case


Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen’s controversial PhD thesis and Louise Nadal, Secretary of the London School of Economics Board, who has denied holding the names of thesis examiners. (credits: Hwan Lin/LSE)

The London School of Economics and Political Science has been slapped with a Notice of Non-Compliance for its failure to comply with a June 21, 2022 court order issued by Information Review Tribunal Judge Alison McKenna. The LSE was given twenty-eight days by the Tribunal to “issue a fresh response to the Appellant’s original information request which confirms that information within the scope of his request is held and either disclose it or claim any exemptions to disclosure on which it relies.”

The LSE has maintained since September 2019 that it did not know the names of the PhD thesis examiners for Republic of China in-exile President Tsai Ing-wen. President Tsai was a student at the school in 1983, although her PhD degree was instead issued by the University of London as the LSE lacked the certification to award the advanced degree.

The identity of who approved President Tsai’s thesis became an issue when Tsai filed her thesis entitled Unfair Trade Practices and Safeguard Actions with the LSE Library in June 2019, thirty-five years late. The tardy thesis was supposed to have been submitted to the LSE Library and the UL’s Senate House Library, but no records of its acquistion can be found by either library. For a time, the UL tried to blame Senate House librarians for the missing thesis, but have since dropped the allegation after a Tribunal judge found that it was probable the libraries did not receive the thesis.

After a second denial by the LSE, an Internal Review was requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The LSE Secretary of the Board, Louise Nadal, conducted the review. “I am satisfied that the decision which confirmed that we do not hold the information you requested is appropriate….the School does not hold the information you have requested.”

Contrary to Nadal’s false claim, Kevin Haynes, the “Head of Legal Team” provided the ROC Ministry of Justice with examiner names, including that of President Tsai’s academic advisor, Michael Elliott. However, Haynes’ subordinate, Rachael Maguire, the LSE Information Manager, says Haynes is likely in error because of a “hasty view” of President Tsai’s student file. In all, three names have been found in the 278-page student file but McGuire doubts the accuracy, saying the names were acquired “accidently.” The UL says there were only two thesis examiners. Neither school will name the examiners, citing Tsai’s right to privacy.

Kevin Haynes was assisting ROC prosecutors in their attempt to imprison Taiwanese newsman Dennis Peng for his reporting on the thesis controversy. President Tsai, in a bid to silence Peng, filed a criminal defamation complaint against Peng for his remarks. Peng supplied an affidavit and a Haynes email he obtained in the course of discovery in his criminal prosecution to the Tribunal. The Haynes email convinced the court that Nadal was in error.

Dennis Peng continues to report on the thesis controvesy on his popular YouTube program True Voice of Taiwan, now broadcast from the United States. President Tsai’s complaint to prosecutors has led to an arrest warrant against Peng. Because of the unresolved status of Tsai’s exiled ROC government there is no extradiction treaty between Taiwan and the United States and Peng has made a temporary home in California.

Judge McKeena dismissed Nadal’s claim of no examiner names and ordered the LSE to admit holding the names and properly address the FOI request.

“LSE confirmed to the Tribunal that it holds President Tsai’s student file, comprising 278 pages. It stated that there is a letter on this file in which a person appears to self-identify as one of the Viva examiners, but that it has no official notification from University of London whether this information was correct, and it holds no information on the identity of the co-examiner.”

“The Appellant produced an email dated 14 June 2019 from a member of staff at LSE to President Tsai’s office in which there is a reference to “fending off” enquiries about President Tsai’s PhD. The Appellant relies on this as evidence that LSE is reluctant to comply with its duties under FOIA.”

“We conclude on the basis of all the evidence before us and on the balance of probabilities that information within the scope of the request is held by LSE in President Tsai’s student file. That information has been referred to in email correspondence between LSE and others (including apparently being supplied to a judicial inquiry) and is also referred to in its submission to the Tribunal. We understand that LSE doubts the accuracy of this information, but we conclude that this is not a basis for stating that information is not held under FOIA.”

“As we have concluded that information is held, the correct course is for LSE to issue a fresh response on the basis that information within the scope of the request is held, and at that stage either disclose the requested information (with contextual commentary, if necessary) or claim any exemptions to disclosure that it considers apply.”

Non-compliance with a court order is an escalation of the ongoing pattern of denial, delay, and obfuscation that has been demonstrated by both UL and LSE over efforts by the public to seek verification of President Tsai’s qualification for her PhD degree.

In a related case involving the UL and its claim of missing thesis examination regulations, the Information Commissioner has accepted a complaint against the school and will undertake an investigation into the UL’s assertion it has no copies of its 1983 examination regulations and there are missing pages in its only rule book. At issue is the question of who was qualified to serve on President Tsai’s viva panel. Tsai refuses to release her oral examination report by the examiners, keeping the controversy alive.

Author: richardsonreports

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

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