Vandalism of Lennon Walls reflects collective anxiety of Chinese students: scholar

Two academics offer perspectives on recent Lennon Wall vandalism incidents

Lennon Wall at National Cheng Kung University (CNA photo)

Lennon Wall at National Cheng Kung University (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Recent reports of Chinese students vandalizing pro-Hong Kong Lennon Walls have sparked conflicts on Taiwanese university campuses, and scholars have expressed different perspectives on the incidents.

Zheng Zhi-peng (鄭志鵬), associate professor at National Tsing Hua University, said that despite a series of similar events occurring in schools, only a few Chinese students were involved. Therefore, he cautions people against making hasty generalizations, reported CNA.

According to Zheng, these incidents of vandalism reflect the collective anxiety of Chinese students, which can be traced to three sources:

  1. Xi’s promotion of the “Chinese Dream” has invoked nationalism and the desire for international recognition and respect.
  2. Hong Kong's anti-extradition movement has resulted in Taiwanese viewing the Chinese government as untrustworthy since the current situation demonstrates it has breached the one country, two systems principle, putting unification even further out of reach.
  3. Taiwanese students are increasingly aware of Chinese tactics to influence Taiwan, and when such topics are discussed with Chinese students, quarrels easily break out.

In regard to suspicions that students targeting Lennon Walls belong to a common pro-communist organization, Shen Bo-yang (沈伯洋), assistant professor at National Taipei University's Graduate School of Criminology, stated his belief that while some Chinese foreign students act in coordination with each other, there is no evidence such an association exists in Taiwan.

Zheng argued that people should try to understand why Chinese would feel uneasy and exhibit such behaviors rather than think of them as being incapable of communication. If such incidents are only viewed as being black and white, cross-strait hostility will only increase, he warned.

In terms of measures the Taiwanese government should take, Zheng proposed that Chinese foreign students receive counseling upon coming to Taiwan so that they can better adapt. According to Shen, the purpose of allowing Chinese in Taiwanese universities is to foster communication and the exchange of ideas on the basis of democracy. If basic guidelines cannot be observed, there would be no point in opening up campuses to these students.