A group of academics launched a signature campaign yesterday urging the Legislative Yuan to amend new legislation that they say infringes on their right to participate in political activities.
“Although it is necessary to regulate the political activities of public officials in a democracy, we believe the legislation is inappropriate as it deprives the right of numerous public servants and teachers to voice their opinions on politics,” Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德), a research fellow at the Institute of Sociology at the Academia Sinica, told a press conference.
Wu was referring to the Act Governing the Administrative Impartiality of Public Officials (公務人員行政中立法).
The Act prohibits academics from wearing or displaying flags or emblems of any political parties or groups at teachers’ or researchers’ offices. It also prohibits academics from convening demonstrations, launching signature bids and the editing, printing or distribution of political flyers or related documents using public equipment at public offices. The Examination Yuan and the Executive Yuan are also authorized to impose more bans through administrative orders.
Meanwhile, the legislature also passed a resolution requiring that the Ministry of Education submit a bill regulating the impartiality of all teachers to the legislature by September.
The academics yesterday panned the legislature for subjecting public school teachers who double as school administrators and researchers at public research institutes to the ban stipulated in the Act.
Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人), an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica, described the Act as “ridiculous” and suggested the government immediately “discipline” him as he could have violated the act by co-initiating the signature campaign.
“I bought a T-shirt from a friend recently that bears the slogan: ‘Taiwan belongs to the Taiwanese people (台灣是台灣人的台灣).’ I could be charged with violation of the Act if I wear the shirt at my research office because the slogan is clearly pro-independence,” he said. “I could also be seen as breaking the law by displaying the Tibetan flag at my office to mark the Tibetan Uprising Day on March 10 every year.”
Yen Chueh-an (顏厥安), a law professor at National Taiwan University, said the inclusion of researchers at public research facilities in the Act could be unconstitutional as Article 11 of the Constitution protects their freedom of speech and research.
In response, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) questioned why the academics failed to voice their opposition to the Act when legislators were negotiating its content.
The ministry’s Department of Personnel also issued a statement later yesterday, saying that it would propose “the least stringent” regulations on teacher impartiality after deliberating over related regulations in “advanced nations.”
The regulations will not affect teacher working methods or infringe upon teachers’ freedom of speech or freedom to decide on teaching materials, the department said.
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