The office of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Saturday confirmed he has been asked to teach a course in advanced law by Soochow University, which some critics have said could bias students.
Ma’s office said preparations are under way for Ma to teach the school’s Yen Chia-kan law lecture series in an unpaid, honorary position.
Soochow University principal Pan Wei-ta (潘維大) confirmed the news, adding that Ma has taught at the institution before.
He is well-versed in international law, possessing unique insights into the subject, and Ma will formally meet with students when classes begin in September, Pan said.
However, some legislators were skeptical about Ma teaching the course.
“To teach the Yen Chia-kan law lecture series, one must be an Academia Sinica fellow; be the recipient of an academic award from the Ministry of Education; be recognized more than three times by the National Science Council for outstanding research, contributions to academia or to a specialized field; or be recognized for outstanding achievements. I am curious about which of these conditions Ma satisfies. This type of appointment should be made in strict accordance with established requirements,” said Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆), who is a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator and a Soochow alumnus.
New Power Party caucus convener Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), who teaches politics at the university, said it could bring “more harm than good” to the students.
“According to the university, Ma Ying-jeou’s knowledge related to ‘international law is tremendous,’ because he knows the special clauses in the international convention on human rights by heart and can speak at length about them in English and he has a unique understanding of the South China Sea issue and that is why he was hired to teach the course,” Hsu wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
However, Hsu added: “Ma Ying-jeou’s leaning toward China in recent years, suppression of academics and exhibition poor defense of Taiwan’s sovereignty over Taiping Island (Itu Aba Island, 太平島) all run counter to what the school describes as expert knowledge of international law, human rights issues and the South China Sea conflict.”
“Ma’s use of the fabricated ‘1992 consensus’ to appease China, and his waving around of the ‘11-dash line’ in discussions on Taiwan’s rights in the South China Sea reduced the nation to the authority of China and became the basis for the case brought to The Hague by the Philippines calling Taiping Island a rock. Could it be that Ma wants to teach students how to surrender to China?” Hsu wrote.
Hsu yesterday said that following the transfer of power on May 20, pan-blue politicians have one after another sought positions in academia rather than retiring and “Soochow University in particular is giving appointments to many former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials, like former minister of finance Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) and former minister of economic affairs John Deng (鄧振中).”
“One might question whether Soochow University likes collecting ‘blue Pokemon,’” Hsu said, referring to a smartphone app game.
“The university does not make inquiries regarding a candidate’s political stance. We are only interested in academic background,” Pan said.
The university would not treat candidates differently based on their political views and it has hired lectures from a variety of backgrounds, including those with experience in different fields, such as economics and law, Pan added.
“Aside from the formal academic training that these instructors have undergone, they also have real-world experience in politics. This allows for an insight that teachers with purely research based background cannot offer,” Pan said.
DPP Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), also an associate professor at the university’s political science department, said he respects the university’s decision to hire Ma.
“Soochow University has always had a liberal, multifaceted academic atmosphere,” he said. “It is in the school’s tradition to hire individuals with real-world experience for teaching positions.”
The so-called “1992 consensus,” a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese government that both sides of the Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
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