Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers and netizens yesterday accused the Ministry of Education of attempting to interfere with student protests against media monopolization when it asked universities to “show concern” for the students — an allegation the ministry denied.
Following a student protest in front of the Executive Yuan to protest the sale of Next Media Group’s (壹傳媒集團) four outlets in Taiwan to a joint venture of several business leaders, including controversial Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), and another student demonstration outside the Fair Trade Commission headquarters in Taipei on Thursday, an e-mail from the ministry urging universities to “show concern” for students taking part in the demonstrations has led to fear among the public that the ministry may try to interfere with student movements.
In the e-mail sent from the ministry’s Student Affairs Committee director Yang Chih-chung (楊志忠) to school administrations, listing the 37 universities whose students are members of a student alliance against media monopoly, the ministry said that officials are “concerned about the health of the students as it has been rainy and cold for several days in Taipei.”
The e-mail urged the universities to “learn more and show your concern for the students.”
DPP legislators Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) and Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌), who both took part in a large-scale pro-democracy student demonstration in 1992, said the ministry’s e-mail brings back memories of the bad old days.
“When I took part in the student demonstration 20 years ago, the school also showed its ‘concern’ to me. It’s unbelievable that the ministry is doing the same thing again after so many years,” Cheng told a news conference held at the Legislative Yuan.
“What the ministry is doing is shameful and inappropriate, and it should apologize to the public,” she added.
As a co-chair of the Education and Cultural Committee, Cheng said she has invited officials from the ministry to explain the incident to the legislature on Monday.
Echoing Cheng’s remarks, Tsai said it was shocking to see what they had fought against 20 years ago appearing again today.
“If the ministry is truly concerned about the students, Minister Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) could have showed up during the demonstrations,” Tsai said. “But I think these students — all grown adults — can take care of themselves very well.”
The ministry’s e-mail also caused a furor among the nation’s netizens.
“Are you serious?” a Facebook user named Jing Shih said. “What a fucked-up government.”
“Is this a communist regime,” said another netizen, Smigal Boo.
When asked for a response, a member of the ministry’s Student Affairs Committee, Yang Yu-hui (楊玉惠), rebutted the accusations.
“We only meant to show our concern about the students’ health because of the cold and rainy weather in Taipei,” she said.
“No one would try to stop students from demonstrating nowadays — in fact, we encourage students to take part in public affairs,” Yang added.