Academia Sinica supports researchers’ freedom of expression amid criticisms

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Jun 01, 2014 - Page 3

Academia Sinica issued a statement on Friday responding to the recent tumult over one of its researchers being accused of dereliction of duty for participating in the Sunflower movement and called on society to “have a positive view” of researchers’ public expression of opinions.

The Anti Taiwan Independence Historical View Alliance staged protests for two days last week against Academia Sinica researcher Huang Kuo-chang’s (黃國昌) participation in the Sunflower movement — the student-led protest that occupied the Legislative Yuan’s chamber on March 18 for three weeks over the handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement.

The alliance accused Huang, a researcher at the institute and thus a civil servant, of violating the Civil Service Administrative Neutrality Act (公務人員行政中立法) by participating in politically charged protests during business hours and asked the institute to look into his attendance and academic record.

Academia Sinica responded in the statement that — as the nation’s top research institute — it has always respected its researchers’ value judgements and choices, and avoided forcing particular points of view upon its individual workers.

“The institute, to substantiate the freedom of speech protected by a democratic society, also respects each researcher’s public expression of views about public issues based on his or her values and beliefs,” the statement says.

While the researchers, as civil servants, are bound to comply with the Act, “Huang had used holidays and taken days off for his participation in non-political-party-initiated activities and therefore had not run afoul of the regulations,” it said.

Regarding whether Huang, could be disciplined by the Act of Disciplinary Sanctions of Public Functionaries (公務員懲戒法), the institute clarified that Huang does not hold an administrative position in the department and is therefore not punishable, as the law is not applicable to those who do not hold administrative positions.

“Academic research cannot be segregated in the ivory tower or isolated from the people, the nation’s development and the society’s movement. It should be the manifestation of the human pursuit of eternal values.”

“That the scholars’ freedom to propose their ideas based upon their studies and knowledge should be protected is an undisputed aspect of a democratic society,” it said. “Academia Sinica as a public research establishment strives to maintain its impartial stance and values plurality and richness of views voiced by individual researchers. Those who do not hold administrative power or are not involved in the distribution of administrative resources should be allowed to express their opinions publicly and their action be positively appraised.”