The European Association for Chinese Studies (EACS) has vowed to lodge a protest with China over what it said was a case of political interference in academia by a Chinese government-affiliated body against the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, an executive at the foundation said yesterday.
The incident in question took place on Tuesday last week at the opening ceremony of the EACS’ biennial conference at the Universidade do Minho in Braga, Portugal, when a page about the foundation was reportedly torn out of all brochures for the event to appease visiting Chinese officials.
Upon learning of the incident after the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) broke the news in its Monday edition, the foundation sent a letter to the Paris-based association to demand an explanation.
The executive, who wished to remain anonymous, said the foundation received a reply from EACS president Roger Greatrex later that day, but gave no further details.
The National Central Library, which hosted an exhibition displaying Taiwanese works on Chinese studies on the sidelines of the three-day event, confirmed later on Monday that staff from the Universidade do Minho ripped page 59 from all the brochures after Chinese officials expressed their displeasure at the page.
The staff did not consult with the EACS first, the library said.
Greatrex wrote in the letter that his association had not informed the foundation of the incident earlier because it needed to get the facts straight first, the executive said.
Beijing was represented at the conference by Xu Lin (許琳), director-general of the Hanban, the common name for the Chinese Ministry of Education’s Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.
Universidade do Minho is one of several universities in Portugal that host a Confucius Institute in cooperation with the Hanban.
At a recent board meeting, the association made two decisions in response to the incident, she quoted Greatrex’s reply to the foundation as saying.
According the executive, Greatrex wrote in the letter that the association’s board will give the foundation a report on the matter after examining the circumstances surrounding the incident and if it determines that the Universidade do Minho received instructions from Xu to tear out the brochure pages, it will issue a formal letter of protest to Hanban against its political interference in academia.
She said that the foundation was displeased about the incident, but stressed that its complaint was directed at the Hanban, not the EACS.
The foundation has had a very good cooperative relationship with the Parisian association in promoting Chinese studies for more than 20 years, she added.
Established in 1975, the EACS is an international association representing European academics who specialize in Chinese studies. It has more than 700 members.
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