Chung Yuan Christian University associate professor Chao Ming-wei (招名威) told a news conference in Taipei on Monday that the institute had forced him to apologize to a class after a Chinese student complained about remarks he made on the origin of COVID-19 and for saying that he was from the “Republic of China [ROC], Taiwan.”
If there were nothing more to it, it would be a total travesty that warrants a serious investigation of the university, as self-censorship, especially on campus, has no place in a free and democratic society — even more so when it is out of fear of Beijing.
If a university is so afraid of offending China that it bows when one Chinese student complains about Taiwanese sovereignty, that surely would be a problem — and is not likely to be an isolated incident.
It would indeed be “trampling on Chao’s character and the nation,” as Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Mark Ho (何志偉) said at the news conference.
However, the matter is not so simple.
He did not mention “ROC, Taiwan” during the lecture, but in his initial apology, in which he stated: “As an ROC, Taiwan professor, we do not discriminate against any individual, and if my speech during class made you unhappy, I apologize.”
The Chinese student was unhappy with the apology and lodged a second complaint. Chao was questioned again by university officials before being told to make a second apology.
Here is where things get confusing: In a recording of his conversation with the university that was played at the news conference, the officials seem to take exception to Chao saying he is from the “ROC, Taiwan” and asked why he emphasized that when he knew there were Chinese students in his class.
It is unclear whether the complainant mentioned Chao’s use of the phrase, but in any case, the university’s stance is completely unacceptable.
The Ministry of Education said that “no university lecturer in Taiwan needs to apologize for stating in class that they are from the Republic of China.”
However, Chao might not be completely without blame. After the news conference, the university released a transcript and video of Chao’s lecture, which showed that during a discussion on amino acids, peptides and proteins, he suggested that “certain” students had consumed too much tainted milk powder, adding: “Those across the Strait, you know, I’m talking about you.”
“If you really think the Wuhan pneumonia only killed 10,000 people, I’m talking about you, yes,” he said.
So it makes sense that the Chinese student was upset, at least initially. Anyone would be if they were called out in that way for no reason.
Despite constant bullying of Taiwan by Beijing, this kind of unnecessarily provocative behavior toward Chinese students is embarrassing and only brings Taiwanese down to the level of the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese netizens, who lose their marbles at any suggestion of Taiwanese sovereignty.
Their behavior can be infuriating, but that is no excuse to single out Chinese during a lecture.
The government is doing what it can to fight back — the latest example being the 22 airlines it convinced to correct the way they refer to Taiwan on their booking sites — but petty aggression toward Chinese who have done nothing wrong is not reasonable.
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Taiwan is beautiful — no doubt about it. In Taipei, the streets are clean, the skyline is gorgeous and the subway is world-class. The coastline is easily accessible and mountains can be seen in the distance. The people are hardworking, successful and busy. Every luxury known to humankind is available and people live on their smartphones. As an American visiting for the first time, here are some things I learned about the country. First, people from Taiwan and America love freedom and democracy and have for many years. When we defeated Japan in 1945, Taiwan was freed from Japanese rule. In