Taiwan defence minister resigned over discoveries made by 'Doctor Cow Dung'

Well-known opposition party member exposed ex-defence minister's plagiarism

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 August, 2013, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 August, 2013, 5:09pm

Taiwan's former defence minister, Andrew Yang, who recently resigned due to plagiarism charges, may have been exposed by an opposition party whistle-blower known to some as “Doctor Cow Dung .”

Chu Cheng-chi, an executive director of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), earned the moniker “Doctor Cow Dung” when he was still a doctorate student in 2009. At that time, he protested the Taiwanese government’s importation of additive-laden United States beef by eating a hamburger made of cow dung. Now, he has achieved attention once more as the whistleblower who leaked information regarding plagiarism committed by Yang.

Yang resigned from his position on August 6, only six days after he had been assigned the role by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. DPP officials urged him to step down after discovering the plagiarism evidence unearthed by Chu, who leaked the discoveries to Taiwan’s Next Magazine.

In his resignation speech, Yang said that the incident was a “personal mistake” and told reporters that portions of a 2007 book he had written on cross-strait relations had been copied from the work of United States scholar Richard Fisher. According to Yang, these portions had been ghost-written by an assistant, but he was now taking responsibility for the error. 

Chu first became aware of the plagiarism by noticing that sections of Yang’s book used several words uncommon in Taiwan, reported Taipei Times. Chief among these was Yang’s choice of word for ‘information warfare’ – xin xi zhan, which is used on the mainland, as opposed to the term more common in Taiwan, zi xun zhan. Suspicious of this usage, Chu discovered through online research that segments of Yang’s book had been copied without attribution from a mainland Chinese translation of Fisher’s original work.

“An estimated 24 pages of Yang’s 39-page article…were plagiarised,” Chu said.

Yang’s resignation comes as an embarrassment to the ruling Kuomingtang party, which has faced tremendous criticism in recent days over its handling of the death of a young military corporal, Hung Chung-chiu. Hung died from heat stroke after alleged abuse from his superiors, and in the controversy surrounding his death, then-defence minister Kao Hua-chu resigned. Yang was appointed soon after by Ma, but in light of the plagiarism charges and subsequent resignation, Ma has appointed Chief of General Staff, General Yen Ming, to the role.

In a statement on Wednesday, Chu denied he had released the information of Yang’s plagiarism as part of a conspiracy plot by the DPP.

“There was no conspiracy… I got the information after conducting an internet search using Google, not from high-ranking military officials,” Chu reportedly said.

Chu currently serves as a member of the Taipei city chair of the DPP, and has shown interest in cross-strait relations. In June, he participated in Fujian cross-strait discussion seminars alongside DPP politician Frank Hsieh, who ran against Ma in 2008.