Six Taiwan universities sign contentious deals with China to limit academic speech

Presidential Office disapproves of the act as an infringement of freedom of expression at schools

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - Five more universities in Taiwan are confirmed to have signed controversial agreements to exclude politically sensitive topics or activities in textbooks or courses offered to Chinese students studying at their schools following Shih Hsin University in Taipei City. Premier Lin Chuan said during an interpellation session at the Legislature Friday that nobody should be allowed to interfere with academic freedom.

Shih Hsin University (世新大學), National Tsing Hua University (國立清華大學), Chung Hua University (中華大學), Chung Yuan Christian University (中原大學), Chaoyang University of Technology (朝陽科技大學) and Providence University (靜宜大學) are allegedly found to have signed the equivalents with universities in China, which were described as “one-China clauses“ by many local media, according to the Ministry of Education.

One of the known controversial academic exchange deals was made by Shih Hsin with China's Jiangsu Normal University (江蘇師範大學), Zhejiang Sci-tech University (浙江理工大學) and Zhejiang University of Media and Communications (浙江傳媒大學) individually, education minister Pan Wen-chung said.

As of Friday, the six universities issued statements saying the agreements were made without breaching stipulations of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area.

In response to the heated issue, Premier Lin indicated that freedom of expression in the academic world should be respected and shouldn’t be limited for political reasons. Lin advised the authorities to propose basic principles for such cross-strait student exchange programs in the future to avoid the dispute, and hoped the exchanges can continue.

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Katharine Chang (張小月) said sternly that the request on limiting speeches in classes from certain Chinese universities is “unnecessary, inappropriate and unreasonable” and is doing no good to cross-strait academic exchanges.

Presidential Office spokesperson Alex Huang (黃重諺) said the freedom of expression in the academic institutions is a fundamental right in a democracy and should not be limited or infringed in any event.

At a regular press briefing, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said that China has been in the position to encourage cross-strait exchanges between youth, and that the agreements between schools on a voluntary basis to exclude political interference while learning should be respected.