The High Court yesterday ruled against former government minister Kuan Chung-ming’s (管中閔) libel lawsuit against two journalists for reports alleging that he has links to Chinese schools.
Kuan in 2018 filed for aggravated libel against two reporters of the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister newspaper of the Taipei Times), surnamed Chung (鍾) and Wu (吳), amid controversy over his appointment as president of National Taiwan University (NTU).
The Taipei District Court in May ruled in favor of the reporters, saying that they had checked their sources and cited government materials, and that the issues surrounding Kuan were in the public’s interest, and subject to open discussion and scrutiny by society.
Kuan filed an appeal, with the High Court yesterday upholding the lower court’s decision.
It was the second and final ruling on the case.
Kuan was a minister of the Council for Economic Planning and Development and the National Development Council during the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration from 2008 to 2016.
He was elected NTU president in January 2018, but the Ministry of Education held back on confirming his appointment amid allegations of conflict of interest, plagiarism and having illegally taught in China.
Kuan did not disclose that he had served as an independent director for Taiwan Mobile Co, a member of the Fubon Group. This raised questions about conflict of interest, as Richard Tsai (蔡明興), a member of the NTU presidential search committee, was the vice chairman of Taiwan Mobile and chairman of Fubon Financial Holding. Neither men disclosed their connection.
Kuan was also accused of plagiarism in an academic paper published in 2017, receiving payment for writing articles for media outlets while serving as a minister, for which he became the subject of an impeachment probe by the Control Yuan.
He was also alleged to have worked for several universities in China, which listed Kuan as a visiting professor.
The two reporters in March 2018 published an article saying that Kuan failed to apply for permission when he visited China for “academic exchanges” as the head of NTU’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.
The law requires top public university officials to obtain government approval before going to China.
In April that year, the two published a news story alleging that Kuan helped Fubon Financial Holding to invest and collaborate with Xiamen University in China’s Fujian Province.
The report quoted Taiwanese academics calling for transparency about the issue and expressing concern over its detrimental impact on schools in Taiwan.
Kuan in his lawsuit claimed that the reporters did not verify the information and had tarnished his reputation.
However, the judges, citing reports by the official investigation and evidence provided by the defense, said the reporters had checked their sources, and that information provided by NTU academics, and materials from the Mainland Affairs Office and other government agencies, as well as telephone calls to Xiamen University substantiated their story.
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