By Sun Hsin Hsuan, The China Post
The Presidential Office Thursday defended academic freedom as a “key part of democracy,” after allegations a local university signed agreements promising not to teach topics related to Taiwanese independence to mainland Chinese exchange students.
The comments came after the Ministry of Education said it would launch a probe into allegations that Shih Hsin University (世新大學) agreed to block independence-related topics in admissions agreements signed with several universities in China. Citing the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said on Thursday that any form of agreement between local and Chinese educational institutions must not include any political content, and must be approved by the ministry beforehand.
In the agreements signed by Shih Hsin School of Lifelong Learning’s director Chiu Chin-chun (邱志淳), the school agreed not touch on any politically sensitive topics, including “one China, one Taiwan,” “two Chinas” or “Taiwanese independence.” The Ministry of Education’s Department of International and Cross-Strait Education chief Yang Ming-ling (楊敏玲) added later Thursday that the ministry would conduct an investigation together with the Mainland Affairs Council into Shih Hsin. They would also check to see if similar agreements have been signed by other education institutions, with violators facing fines of up to NT$500,000, Yang said. Shih Hsin Defends Agreement In their defense, Shih Hsin University’s public affairs chief Yeh I-jan (葉一璋) said that such agreements had existed since 2014, asserting that they were not contracts between the university and their mainland Chinese counterparts, but documents provided to individual students upon request. “The agreement makes it easier for Chinese students to get the necessary documents from their university to apply for a student visa,” Yeh said. Shih Hsin had partnerships with around 100 schools in China, Yeh said, some of which refused to allow their students to enroll in Taiwanese schools without the agreement. Some media dubbed the agreement the “one China agreement.” Yeh denied the claims, saying that the school’s intention was to protect students’ education rights. “Given that most of them (Chinese students) are enrolled in media or tourism-related departments, it is hoped that academic neutrality is preserved,” Yeh said. “It’s like when Taiwanese students go to China, they won’t want to hear about unification issues.” The Presidential Office was quick to respond to the matter on Thursday. Spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said that “no matter the result of the investigation, academic freedom is a key part of a democracy as well as the stepping stone for the nation’s political development. “This right is protected by the Constitution, and must not be restrained or jeopardized.”