Students who vandalize Lennon Walls face deportation: Taiwan's MOE gets tough

The Ministry of Education has affirmed nation's school authorities should protect freedom of expression, amid campus disputes over protests in Hong Kong

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Lennon Wall at National Cheng Kung University (CNA photo)

Lennon Wall at National Cheng Kung University (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Ministry of Education (MOE) has warned that students who damage Lennon Walls on university campuses could face prosecution and deportation.

Head of the Department of Higher Education Chu Chun-chang (朱俊彰) said the ministry has sent a letter to universities calling for direct intervention if there are disputes between Chinese and Hong Kong students over the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The schools should handle these cases fairly, proportionately, and regardless of the student’s status, Chu emphasized.

Students who vandalize Lennon Walls on campus or are guilty of assault could face prosecution and deportation from Taiwan, said Chu. He referred to a recent incident when a Chinese tourist was deported and banned from entering Taiwan for five years after vandalizing the Lennon Wall at National Taiwan University.

The man was indicted for damage of property early in October, after NTU’s student association filed a complaint to authorities. Chu added that if students decide to pursue legal action to resolve disputes, school authorities should respect their decision and offer necessary assistance.

Lennon Walls have proliferated at several universities after the new semester started in September. Many students have put stickers, notes or posters to show their support for pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

However, conflicts over the matter have also occurred in recent weeks, including a Hong Kong student being hurt during an argument with Chinese peers. Most problems are settled after school and police intervention, but some situations end up in legal challenges.

For example, a Chinese exchange student at National Tsing Hua University accused of damaging the campus’ Lennon Wall is now facing a charge that could result in a prison sentence of up to two years.

Lennon Walls are established through applications to the school authorities and they should protect freedom of expression, said Chu. Chinese students should also be aware of Taiwan’s laws to prevent any violations that may affect their eligibility to continue studying in Taiwan, he said.