Is the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) giving up on wooing young voters? The party would adamantly deny it, but it definitely looks that way in light of the KMT government’s latest move: Attempting to rein in college students’ freedom to participate openly in the discussion boards at the online Professional Technology Temple, or PTT as it is better known among local Internet users.
The site, managed by National Taiwan University, is the nation’s largest academic bulletin board system. Popular among college students, PTT hosts thousands of discussion boards, serving as a forum for young people to share their thoughts and take note of others’ opinions.
Shockingly, however, it has been revealed that the Ministry of Education on Oct. 21 issued a notice to the university asking it to review and strengthen its management of PTT’s Gossip Board, which the ministry alleged was filled with articles on politics that were penned by staffers from political parties.
Shame on the ministry for issuing such a notice, which it described as a “mere friendly reminder,” because it instantly begs the question from any rights-conscious Internet users as to what authority the ministry thinks it has to restrict students from exercising their right to free speech online.
Accusing those taking part in the Gossip Board and chatting about politics of being subversive moles planted by political parties is ridiculous.
Many academics and adults have often lamented that young people nowadays are indifferent to what is happening around them, that they lack ideals and indulge their selfish desires in online gaming. So shouldn’t the ministry take it as an encouraging sign that there are college students who do pay attention to the serious matters happening around them and care enough to spend time discussing those issues online on the so-called Gossip Board?
The logic behind the ministry’s decision to send the notice is perplexing. Does it wish for the nation’s youth to not have their own opinions on serious subjects such as politics, wanting them only to comment on gossip like who actress Barbie Hsu (徐熙媛, better known as Big S) is engaged to or what designer’s dresses the movie stars are going to flaunt on the red carpet at the upcoming Golden Horse Awards?
In view of the initiative taken by Taichung prosecutors to look into the posting of a spoof version of a campaign video for Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) — which the prosecutors later denied was a formal probe — it is no wonder there are voices expressing concern about whether these are signs of the nation regressing to a past when people’s freedom of speech and expression were censured.
So far, the university has not issued any formal statement in response to the ministry’s notice.
Just like it was shameful for the ministry to send out the notice in the first place, it would be equally disgraceful if the university were to blindly comply with the ministry regarding the matter without raising a single objection.
As for the students, they must not be intimidated nor allow their views to be repressed or their rights trampled. It would truly be depressing if they were to comply with the ministry’s demand without putting up a fight, as it would suggest that the nation’s youth have been disenfranchised and freedom of speech and expression are headed down the road of regression, leading to gagged mouths and blindfolds.
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