What you need to know
'Academic freedom should not be oppressed by politics,' says Premier Lin Chuan.
Six Taiwan universities have signed a letter of agreement with certain Chinese universities, stating classes offered to Chinese exchange students from these schools are to steer away from any politically sensitive content, especially those regarding cross-Strait relations.
Investigations were conducted by the Ministry of Education (MOE), and Minister Pan Wen-Chung (潘文忠) on March 2 said that the letters of agreement “have violated Article 33 of the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例),” which states that any contractual cooperation between Taiwanese and Chinese universities must be approved by the MOE and the nature of cooperation must not be politically motivated.
At a press conference on March 2, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) said that by signing the agreement letter “would mean the acceptance of the One China principle by the Taiwanese universities,” reports Taipei Times.
Lin Chuan (林全), premier and head of the Executive Yuan, on March 3 said that “academic freedom should not be oppressed by politics,” and though political views are a part of freedom of speech, politics should refrain from interfering with academia.
The letters were first accidentally revealed to the public on March 2 by Shih Hsin University (世新大學), prompting investigation into the issue. On March 3, National Tsing Hua University (清華大學) was found to have also signed similar papers.
Yeh I-Jan (葉一璋), representative of Shih Hsin University Office of Public Affairs (世新大學公共事務處), said on March 3 that most Chinese exchange students major in media-related degrees so academic neutrality is important. “The agreement was to avoid politically-sensitive topics, which cannot be equated to accepting the One China policy,” Yeh said. Given that the agreement is simply a detailed description of the course curriculum, he does not see how it would have violated the law.
National Tsing Hua University also issued a statement on March 3 saying that the letter of agreement is not an agreement on the One China policy, but one to maintain that “academic exchange stays out of politics.”
The MOE has announced investigations will continue for another two weeks. If the court deems the agreement as a violation of law, each university can be fined up to NT$500,000 (US$16,000) and will be required to make changes accordingly.
Editor: Olivia Yang