Academics yesterday warned that the Hsinchu City Government’s investigation into Austrian lecturer Max Gufler’s work permit after he criticized the city government was reminiscent of the White Terror era.
In an open letter released on May 10, Gufler, a lecturer at National Hsinchu University of Education and an environmentalist, urged the city government not to sponsor three firework shows in October as part of Double Ten National Day celebrations because the shows would cause air pollution and waste public funds.
Lu Chung-chin (呂忠津), Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP) president, told a news conference that Hsinchu’s Department of Labor began a probe into Gufler’s work permit on May 14.
The probe was widely criticized and prompted a city councilor to question Hsinchu Mayor Hsu Ming-tsai (許明財) about the investigation, Lu said.
Hsu has officially apologized to Gufler, but the TAUP, Taiwan Democracy Watch (TDW) and National Chiao Tung University’s Chufeng Society said the government and Hsu should apologize for jeopardizing Taiwan’s proud democracy with their “disgusting behavior.”
Chu Ping-tzu (祝平次), a National Tsinghua University professor who represented TDW at the news conference, said the incident showed that the mentality of some government officials “is pretty much the same as the government’s mentality in the Martial Law era.”
Citing US whistleblower Edward Snowden, the source behind the recent leaks of information about the US National Security Agency’s activities, Chu said the county government’s practice “was perhaps not that surprising since that even the US government violates democracy from time to time.”
Chu said a series of recent incidents nationwide have worried academics and rights advocates about the status of Taiwan’s “campus democracy,” citing the Ministry of Education’s letters to students who participated in a protest, National Taiwan University’s request for police officers to maintain order on campus and the suppression of students’ speech of freedom at several schools.
Liu Chun-hsiu (劉俊秀), a professor at National Chiao Tung University, said the harassment of Gufler was the kind of strategy the government used during the White Terror era, along with lawsuits, so that the victims would eventually be subdued through fear.
“The perpetrators’ primary objective is intimidation, which would be enough to silence the protesters and advocates, because no one wants to endure prolonged legal proceedings and constant harassment,” Liu said.