Three Taipei public elementary schools on Sunday pressed on with their plans to attend the Cross-strait Angels of Peace Exchange in Shanghai, despite mounting concerns at home that the event was part of China’s “united front” strategy.
The city’s Minzu, Minquan and Minsheng elementary schools sent a delegation of 29 students out of the 40 planned. The delegation was to be hosted by Shanghai’s Fudan University.
The program, organized by the Chinese Communist Youth League’s Young Pioneers of China and first held in 1992, has become the subject of controversy after Taiwanese media began reporting on it last month.
An image of last year’s event in the Chinese state-run People’s Daily (人民日報) showed Taiwanese children against the backdrop of the slogan “People on both sides of the Strait are one family; together they will realize the Chinese dream.”
Since then, parents from participating schools have voiced concerns that children were being enlisted to collude with China.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei Councilor Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) has criticized independent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) for condoning the events.
“Is he allowing Beijing to teach our children how to realize the Chinese dream?” Hsu was quoted as saying.
Minzu Elementary School principal and delegation head Huang Yao-nung (黃耀農) on Sunday said that the Chinese organizers left controversial slogans and phrases out of this year’s event.
“China has shown goodwill in its choice of words,” Huang said, adding that Taiwanese and Chinese event organizers would also refrain from speaking to avoid the appearance of a political agenda.
The 11 students that dropped out of the event did so for personal reasons not related to politics, he said.
Taipei Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Tseng Tsan-chin (曾燦金) instructed that exchanges should be conducted on the basis of “equality, dignity and respect for Taiwan’s autonomy,” Huang said.
The delegation followed Tseng’s orders and the Chinese organizers had shown “sincerity” in cooperating with it, he said.
Many parents wanted their children to see Shanghai and people should not “complicate things unnecessarily,” Minsheng Elementary School principal Lee Chin-yen (李金燕) said.
The event was billed as designed to promote mutual understanding between Taiwanese and Chinese children, and participating families were asked to contribute NT$30,000 each.
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