Verbal clashes erupted on National Taiwan University’s (NTU) campus yesterday between students who support the election of Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as university president and those who oppose it.
The Ministry of Education on Friday last week rejected Kuan’s election after a series of allegations, ranging from conflicts of interest in the selection process to plagiarism and teaching in China, prevented Kuan from taking office as scheduled on Feb. 1.
The Action Alliance for University Autonomy, formed by a number of academics who support Kuan, held a rally on the campus near the landmark Fu Bell (傅鐘). Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) visited the campus to show their solidarity with faculty members and students supporting Kuan.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
Ma said that a university should not be polluted by politics, while Hung joined a sit-in.
At about 4pm, more than 20 NTU students who oppose Kuan’s election raised banners near the bell that read: “Kuan’s purity cheated the entire country.”
As the two sides traded barbs, a Kuan-supporter pulled the shirt collar of an anti-Kuan student, while another person drew on a student’s white shirt using lipstick.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
At one point, anti-Kuan students were cornered by people supporting the president-elect.
Some Kuan supporters were heard shouting: “Students get off the campus,” “Red Guards” and “Japanese lackey (日本走狗).”
Campus police intervened, separating the two parties to prevent the conflict from escalating.
NTU professor Chen Tung-sheng (陳東升) later yesterday said that if the university wants to ensure school autonomy, the first step would be to protect the personal safety of NTU students and teachers, and their freedom to express different opinions inside the campus.
“NTU students were beaten for expressing their opinion inside their own school — this is a very serious matter and the darkest day in NTU’s history,” Chen said.
The university’s acting president and administrative units must be held responsible for what happened and the people who used violence should be strongly condemned, he added.
Earlier yesterday, KMT lawmakers rallied outside the ministry to protest the ministry’s decision not to confirm Kuan as NTU president.
“On the 99th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement (五 四運動), the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] administration has crossed the red line of democracy and academic freedom,” KMT caucus secretary-general Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) said, referring to an intellectual and reformist movement in China.
The DPP has advocated against allowing politics to interfere in school affairs, but the charges it has fabricated against Kuan show that its so-called ideals are just tools for political struggle, Lee said.
School autonomy is crucial for young people to cultivate democratic values, and the KMT caucus wants to show its support for student protesters who yesterday took a stand on the issue at the NTU to let the DPP and the ministry know that they must not tread on the nation’s hard-won democracy and freedom, she said.
KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) accused President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier William Lai (賴清德) of being the masterminds behind the ministry’s decision not to confirm Kuan.
The caucus did not stage the rally to rescue Kuan, but to call for support for university autonomy and democracy, KMT caucus deputy secretary-general William Tseng (曾銘宗) said.
There are 140 NTU faculty members who are also independent board directors, and most of them took up their posts in the private sector before informing the school — like what Kuan did when he accepted the Taiwan Mobile seat, Tseng said.
Lai yesterday told legislators that he would “take responsibility” for the ministry’s decision against confirming Kuan.
He made the remarks in response to KMT Legislator Alicia Wang’s (王育敏) question on whether the ministry had acted on his or Tsai’s orders, or whether the premier gave the order without first informing the president.
Lai said that, as the premier, he is responsible for the appointment of ministers, as well as the decisions they make.
Additional reporting by CNA
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