Taiwan President to Sue Purveyors of Fake News Over Degree Claims


2019.08.29
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tsai-diploma.jpg Documents from the London School of Economics and Political Science posted on the Facebook page of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in response to continuing "fake news" claims that her academic qualifications are bogus.
Tsai Ing-wen

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has warned that she will take legal action over continuing claims that her academic qualifications are fake.

In a post to her Facebook page, Tsai said she would take legal action against anyone who falsely claims she did not write her doctoral degree or earn a law degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The post included a photo of her PhD certificate awarded by LSE, adding that her dissertation can be found in the institution's library.

"Recently, some people have been questioning my degree," Tsai wrote. "This is not just counterfactual; it's an example of excessive rumor-mongering and has become an item of fake news."

"After preparing the relevant documents, I will be taking legal action against the relevant people," she wrote.

"These are facts that can be objectively verified, and I hope that the people concerned will stop these rumors," she said.

"As President, I accept the supervision of the people. That is democracy. However, democracy and freedom don't mean that we tolerate the spread of fake news."

Tsai, who is seeking re-election in 2020, was awarded the PhD in 1984 after completing a dissertation on unfair trade practices. She is listed as an alumna on the institution's website.

Genuine qualifications

Tsai was responding to a number of recent accusations, including one made by National Taiwan University law professor emeritus Ho Te-fen, who had claimed it is "reasonable to suspect" that Tsai has been faking her doctoral degree for 35 years.

Ho cited the opinion of Hwan C. Lin, an associate professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Former TV political talk show host Peng Wen-cheng has made similar accusations.

Both the LSE and Taiwan's Ministry of Education have confirmed that Tsai received her doctoral degree in 1984, and that her qualifications are entirely genuine.

Taiwan's national security agency has repeatedly warned of growing attempts to flood Taiwan with propaganda and disinformation ahead of presidential elections in 2020, and to infiltrate its polity using Beijing-backed media and political groups.

Lawmakers say the country is doing all it can to guard against growing attempts at political infiltration and influence by the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department in Taiwan.

Taiwan was ruled as a Japanese colony in the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was handed back to the 1911 Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) government as part of Tokyo's post-war reparation deal.

It has never been controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor formed part of the People's Republic of China. The Republic of China is already a sovereign and independent state which controls the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.

Taiwan began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang Kai-shek's son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.

Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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