National Tsing Hua University student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) yesterday apologized for his attitude when speaking to Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) at a legislative meeting on Monday, and urged the public to focus on the movement against media monopolization.
“Some people may think I had a bad attitude that day. Some people may think that my attitude was okay. Whether I meant it or not, certainly some people’s feelings have been hurt by the way I talked,” Chen told a student rally on the university’s campus in Hsinchu City.
“For those whose feelings have been hurt, I would like to sincerely apologize to them, and apologize to our school president,” he said.
“From now on, can we stop arguing about the issue of attitude?” he asked, after bowing three times.
“We are here, because we are against media monopoly. We are here, because we are against Chinese intervention in our freedom of the press. We are here to defend the bottom line in freedom of the media,” he said.
Chen’s apology and remarks drew a round of applause and cheers from his peers.
He said the campaign against media monopoly would continue regardless of the incident.
When invited to take part in a legislative meeting on Monday, Chen accused the minister of being a liar and a hypocrite who does not know remorse.
On Tuesday, the Chinese-language United Daily News devoted its front page and another full page inside to criticizing Chen as being ill-mannered.
The reports triggered a wide debate on whether it was appropriate for a university student to make such comments toward a minister in the legislature.
The university immediately issued a press release condemning Chen’s attitude and apologized on behalf of Chen, which led to yet another wave of debates on whether it was appropriate for the university to do so.
Hundreds of Tsing Hua students staged rallies on campus on Wednesday, while as many as 95 faculty members signed a petition protesting the university’s statement of apology.
On Thursday, Tsing Hua chief secretary Chien Chen-fu (簡禎富) acknowledged that the school misjudged the situation in issuing the apology.
He was quoted by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) as saying that he asked his secretary to draft the statement after only seeing the headline in the United Daily News.
Students launched the campaign against media monopoly after learning that a consortium including Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) was buying Next Media Group’s (壹傳媒集團) four media outlets in Taiwan.
They said they oppose control of the mass media being concentrated in the hands of a few conglomerates and urged the government to scrutinize the transaction.