Probe confirms plagiarism in Li’s thesis; degree to be revoked

Kaohsiung City Councilor Li Mei-jhen (front, wiping tears). CNA file photo

KAOHSIUNG (CNA) — National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) said Wednesday it will revoke the degree of Li Mei-jhen (李眉蓁), the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate in last Saturday’s Kaohsiung mayoral by-election, as it has confirmed that her thesis was largely plagiarized.

The decision was reached after an investigation into the matter by an academic ethics review committee that was appointed by NSYSU’s College of Social Sciences, the university said in a press release.

All of the committee members, including three non-NSYSU professionals, agreed that Li had plagiarized her thesis, and they unanimously voted in favor of revoking her master’s degree, in accordance with the Degree Conferral Act, the school said.

The university said it will also conduct an internal investigation to determine whether Li’s academic advisor was culpable.

Following the NSYSU announcement, Li said she accepted the decision and hoped it would bring an end to the controversy.

Meanwhile, NSYSU said, it has taken steps to prevent any recurrence of plagiarism among its students, including measures for more stringent screening of their thesis proposals.

The academic record of Li, a 41-year-old Kaohsiung City councilor, came under scrutiny in late July, after she was named as the KMT candidate in the city’s mayoral by-election, which she lost on Aug. 15 by a wide margin.

According to media reports during the campaign period, Lee had plagiarized most of the content of her 2008 master’s thesis when she was a student at NSYSU’s Institute of Mainland China Studies.

The tabloid Mirror Media reported that approximately 96 percent of the thesis had been copied from the work of another student and that of Tung Chen-yuan (童振源), the incumbent head of the Overseas Community Affairs Council.

While Li initially said that the allegations were politically motivated, NSYSU decided to investigate the matter.

Li later apologized for her “personal failings” and said she was “renouncing” the degree. In response, the university said it had no guidelines for allowing alumni to renounce their degrees and the investigation would continue.

On Saturday, Li lost to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), who was the front runner in the Kaohsiung by-election.

Chen won with 671,804 votes, 70.03 percent of the total, defeating Li and the Taiwan People’s Party candidate Wu Yi-jheng (吳益政), who finished with 25.90 percent and 4.06 percent, respectively.

The by-election was held following the recall of the KMT’s Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in a vote in early June, about 18 months after he ended the DPP’s 20-year hold on the southern city when he won the seat in 2018.

Chen will serve out the remainder of Han’s term, which is due to end in December 2022.