Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) yesterday called for an official investigation into the online English-language education platform TutorABC, amid concerns that it is skirting restrictions on Chinese investment in the education industry by labeling itself as a technology company.
TutorABC is the largest online English-language education platform in Taiwan, constituting a significant proportion of the market, Lin told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
It was founded in Taiwan, but the composition of its shareholders and executives has shifted, Lin said.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
China’s Ping An Insurance Group in 2019 purchased a controlling stake in iTutorGroup, which reportedly operates the TutorABC brand, Lin said.
Many Chinese media reports have also called TutorABC a subsidiary of Ping An Insurance, Lin added.
According to the Measures Governing Investment Permits to the People of the Mainland Area (大陸地區人民來台投資許可辦法), Chinese investors cannot directly or indirectly hold more than 30 percent of a Taiwanese company, or exert a controlling influence, Lin said.
However, TutorABC has required its foreign teachers to abide by Chinese law, even telling employees that “Taiwan is part of China,” he said, adding that it is clear the company is under the control of Ping An Insurance.
With its 200,000 members in Taiwan, TutorABC holds a considerable amount of personal data valuable to China, Lin said.
This bias could seep into its curriculum, which is of particular concern considering that the firm is helping the Taipei City Government compile English-language teaching material, he added.
TutorABC holds an outsized influence in the market, Tainan Education Performance Bond Association chairman Wang Kai-min (王凱民) said.
It has recently been targeting small cram schools, helping them sell online courses, Wang said.
In addition to the Taipei project, TutorABC has won a NT$3 million (US$105,526) contract from Taichung Municipal Cingshuei Senior High School to set up an online learning platform, he added.
“Everyone knows that TutorABC teaches English, but it is not managed by the Ministry of Education” since it is registered as a technology company, he said.
“This is a huge problem,” he said.
Investment Commission spokesman Su Chi-yen (蘇琪彥) said that the agency last year received a tip about a potentially improper investment, but is still waiting for information from other agencies before making a decision.
TutorABC in a statement on Facebook refuted the characterization, saying that it is a Taiwanese company and abides by all local laws and regulations.
Although the founders of TutorABC set up iTutorGroup in 2008, the companies were separate at the time of the Ping An Insurance purchase, it said.
According to TutorABC’s Web site, iTutorGroup was founded in 2004, while the iTutorGroup Web site links to TutorABC as its adult learning platform for the “Taiwan (China) market.”
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