by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Lin Chih-chien/Facebook

HSINCHU CITY MAYOR Lin Chih-chien was accused by the KMT of plagiarism earlier this week. Lin, who is a DPP politician that won in Hsinchu in 2014, is running as the DPP’s candidate for Taoyuan mayor in elections later this fall. Lin holds two master’s degrees, the first of which is from Chung Hua University (CHU)’s Department of Technology Management in 2008, and the second of which is from National Taiwan University (NTU)’s Graduate Institute of National Development in 2017. 

The allegations against Lin were first made by Taipei city councilor Wang Hung-wei of the KMT. Subsequently, the KMT’s legislative caucus held a press conference to call for Lin, along with NTU and CHU, to explain the allegations. Tseng Ming-chung, the KMT caucus whip, has called on CHU to investigate whether Lin’s degree should be revoked or whether the intellectual property rights of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) were infringed upon. To this extent, the pan-Blue Taiwan People’s Party has also leaped onboard with the plagiarism accusations against Lin. 

Photo credit: Lin Chih-chien/Facebook

Specifically, the plagiarism allegations claim that Lin’s CHU thesis was suspiciously similar to research published by the Hsinchu Science Park Administration, under the auspices of MOST. suggesting he was plagiarizing research that was government intellectual property. Moreover, allegations against Lin’s NTU thesis allege that Lin’s research was suspiciously similar to research published by another student, Yu Zheng-huang. 

In response to the allegations, Lin held a press conference, asserting that there were no issues with his thesis, but that the KMT concocted the accusations in order to benefit its candidate in Taoyuan. The KMT is running former Ma administration premier Simon Chang as its Taoyuan candidate, Chang having also served as its vice presidential candidate in 2020 elections. Lin stated that the accusations were often trotted out by political opponents prior to elections and so he has responded to them in the past, as well. 

Lin was a participant in the workshop that resulted in the publication of the Hsinchu Science Park Administration paper. As such, defenders of Lin have pointed out that it is common for a student to later expand upon research that they have presented in workshops or conferences into their master’s thesis. 

Likewise, Lin’s former advisor at NTU, Chen Ming-tong, has stated that Yu borrowed data that was originally gathered by Lin for his thesis, and that he encouraged this sharing of data. Nevertheless, as Yu graduated before Lin did, this led to the misconception that Lin plagiarized Yu, when Yu was in fact using research data gathered by Lin. 

The KMT may be hoping to sabotage Lin’s mayoral run with plagiarism accusations, similar to how its candidate in the by-election for Kaohsiung mayor in 2020, Jane Lee, was sunk by reports that she plagiarized her master’s thesis. Despite the controversy, the KMT did not withdraw Lee as its candidate. 

After the Jane Lee controversy, there were allegations that KMT politicians that served on her committee such as former KMT legislator Ho Tsai-feng and former KMT Kaohsiung city council speaker Hsu Kun-yuan could have colluded to allow her to pass. 

For its part, the KMT hit back by accusing Presidential Office secretary-general Su Jia-chyuan and Pingtung county commissioner Pan Men-an of plagiarism. The KMT also accused Chen Ming-tong–a former Mainland Affairs Council minister–of having allowed many pan-Green politicians to easily obtain degrees by serving on their committees. Academics that supervised Lee also sought to defend themselves in the course of the scandal. 

Following the accusations against Lin, the KMT’s Kaohsiung mayoral candidate, Ko Chih-en, was also accused of self-plagiarism over two nearly identical manuscripts submitted to two conferences by a Facebook account named Wen Ta-jiu, with Ko filing a defamation lawsuit against the account’s administrator afterward. 

Photo credit: Lin Chih-chien/Facebook

Indeed, it is not uncommon for politicians in Taiwan to be accused of academic plagiarism or not, in fact, having completed their degrees. Some have termed these accusations the Taiwanese version of US birtherism charges, as directed against former President Barack Obama and other US politicians, perhaps reflecting how many politicians in Taiwan are highly educated and hold advanced degrees. 

No less than President Tsai Ing-wen faces such accusations that she never turned in her dissertation, not only from the KMT, but from deep Greens–though some of the attacks on Tsai from deep Green political figures that have made misogynistic public comments about Tsai in the past may stem from a refusal to believe that a woman could obtain a doctorate. When the scandal broke out regarding Jane Lee, Lee attempted to deflect by stating that she would only reveal the truth of her thesis if Tsai revealed the truth about her dissertation. 

So, too, perhaps with plagiarism accusations against Lin. That questions of academic integrity have become a political controversy proves particularly Taiwanese. 

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