The Ministry of Education on Friday announced administrative punishment against the the Hsiuping Institute of Technology (修平技術學院) over the removal of the national flag and a portrait of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) from the venue of a graduation ceremony to please a visiting delegation from China on June 12.
Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) told Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) to launch a thorough investigation of the incident.
The ministry has already demanded that the institute review its conduct and make improvements. The school also had its reimbursement budget of NT$30 million for the last year's academic year frozen.
The ministry's initial investigation of the incident has revealed discrepancies between recorded video footage and the institute's explanations of the event.
A study of video footage of the graduation ceremony showed that there was a three to five minute delay between the end of the national anthem and the entry of the "special guests," during which time the flag and portrait of Sun were hastily removed.
The institute has been unable to give a satisfactory explanation. Also, in the application for the visit, the Chinese delegation was to participate in the graduation ceremony from 3pm on June 12. In fact, the delegation did not enter the hall until 3:10pm, after the flag and portrait had been removed.
The ministry said that the institute had failed to provide adequate evidence for the coincidental timing of the removal and the delegation's presence.
Moreover, Du Ruicheng (杜瑞成) deputy principal of the Shandong University of Technology, who headed the delegation from China, said on his departure from Taipei Friday night, that he had told members of the host institute that his delegation wished to "avoid" association with Taiwan's national flag and anthem.
This suggests that Hsiuping Institute of Technology had a prior agreement over the removal of the two national symbols. This contradicts the institute's statements that the flag was removed simply because the flag raising mechanism was inoperable, and that the removal of these symbols and the presence of the Chinese delegation was purely coincidental.
Chang Kuo-bao (張國保), head of the Technology and Vocational Education Department of the Ministry of Education, said the case now had to be handed to the Immigration Office of the National Police Agency and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) to ascertain if there had been any violation of laws related to the visit of Chinese nationals.
If further irregularities are uncovered, Chang said that other, more severe punitive measures may be taken against the institute. This could include a moratorium on invitations to Chinese nationals for up to three years.
Tu emphasized that the ministry upheld the harsh measures being taken, saying that the removal of the national symbols as a gesture of goodwill to the visiting Chinese delegation was a negative example that could have a pernicious influence upon public perception.
The institute's chief secretary Lin Tsang-min (林倉民) has already resigned to take responsibility, but Tu said that consideration of the incident would not end with the resignation. The premier has demanded a study of the guidelines regulating the conduct of cross-strait exchanges to ascertain if the recent visit violated the principles of equality and mutual respect.