Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) yesterday criticized Shih Hsin University over leaked “letters of agreement” signed with Chinese universities, saying that the school infringed upon the freedom of speech in universities and violated the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例).
Yeh said that the letters’ contents, if true, would mean the acceptance of the “one China” principle by the university, which would censor freedom of speech in Taiwanese universities and hamper academic liberties.
Beijing’s “one China” principle asserts that Taiwan and China are parts of a single “China.”
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
The school allegedly promised that politically sensitive topics, such as “one China, one Taiwan,” “two Chinas” and Taiwanese independence, would not be covered in courses offered to Chinese students.
The university said the Lifelong Education Center, which signed the letters, is responsible for Chinese students’ short-term studies and has over the past few years welcomed Chinese students from more than 50 colleges and universities, but since February 2015, three universities have been demanding that such a letter be signed before sending students — about 30 to 45 every semester.
The Ministry of Education yesterday identified the Chinese schools as Zhejiang University of Media and Communications, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University and Jiangsu Normal University.
The freedom to teach is an important link in democracy and is guaranteed by the Constitution, Presidential Office spokesperson Alex Huang (黃重諺) said.
The university may have violated Article 33 of the act, which states that contractual cooperation between Taiwanese and Chinese universities must comply with regulations, not be driven by political agendas and must be declared to the ministry beforehand, Minister of Education Pen Wen-chung (潘文忠) said yesterday.
Academic exchanges, while encouraged, must be on equal footing and mutually beneficial, Pan said, adding that the ministry is looking into the issue.
The Mainland Affairs Council said cross-strait academic exchanges should leave politics aside, adding that such exchanges aid the stability and peaceful development of cross-strait affairs.
Shih Hsin University released a statement yesterday, saying that the letters complied with the act.
The letters do not represent the university and are provided on an individual basis upon request, the university said.
The letters were deemed as “detailed explanations of courses,” rather than a “letter of agreement,” despite being titled as such, the university said.
Lifelong Education Center director Chiu Chih-chun (邱志淳) declined to comment when reached by the media on Wednesday.
Additional reporting by Lin Liang-sheng, Rachel Lin
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