National Taiwan University (NTU) yesterday said that it respects the expression of different opinions, but added that the process should be rational.
A talk by former premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) at the university on Tuesday was interrupted by students who were unhappy with his handling of a student raid on the Executive Yuan during the Sunflower movement in 2014.
“As a place created for knowledge and learning, the university welcomes and respects the expression and exchange of different opinions, but the process must be rational and should not involve attempts to hinder others’ expression of opinions,” the university said in a statement.
Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsun, Taipei Times
To ensure rational interactions, the university would take necessary measures to maintain order and protect the rights of participants, as well as the safety of faculty members and students, while also ensuring their freedom, it said.
Jiang, an alumnus of NTU’s Political Science Department and a National Chung Cheng University professor, was invited by the department’s student association to give a talk at NTU at 7pm on Tuesday.
Twenty-five minutes into the talk, about 100 students stormed into the classroom and surrounded Jiang, calling him a “lying politician” and demanding that he leave the university.
Some of the protesters took control of the classroom projectors and began playing footage of police dispersing students who broke into the Executive Yuan on Mar. 23, 2014, while others shouted “police violence under the premier’s order.”
Jiang remained silent and wrote “Please be rational” on the blackboard, but the words were soon erased by angry students.
The protest lasted almost an hour, forcing Jiang to leave at 8:10pm under police escort, putting an end to the event.
“We had asked the speaker to leave early for safety reasons and we sincerely apologize to him and all participants for failing to ensure a smooth event,” the association said in a statement.
“We had previously communicated with the speaker about discussing some controversies that people care a lot about and had arranged a 30 minute question-and-answer session. It was a shame that the event was interrupted,” it said.
“Being surrounded by a group of students and seeing them pushing people around and irrationally stopping others from speaking, while others remained in their seats hoping the talk would resume, I felt really complicated,” Jiang wrote on Facebook.
“I had planned to share my views on two themes that students care most about: career planning and the Sunflower movement. It was a shame that I could not complete the talk,” he said.
“Despite what happened last night, I am happy to share my opinions on the Sunflower movement and other public issues with students at any public occasion,” he said, adding that rational dialogue is the best way to resolve differences.
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) after a speech in Taipei condemned the protesters’ behavior, which he said disrupted the serenity of the campus and disregarded academic freedom and freedom of the speech.
“Hunting down someone after four years is not the right attitude,” Ma said.
The raid on the Executive Yuan was part of the Sunflower movement, which began with an occupation of the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber to oppose a cross-strait service trade agreement.
While the occupation of the legislature lasted from March 18 to April 10, the occupation of the Executive Yuan lasted only a few hours before police dispersed protesters by force, reportedly under Jiang’s order.
Additional reporting by Wu Po-hsuan
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