The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday condemned a Chinese professor for pressing a Taiwanese student over his nationality, calling it an abuse of power.
The ministry said it has asked its representative office in Italy to follow the investigation into the incident.
The ministry issued the remark following a widely circulated video showing Chen Zhen (陳蓁), a professor at Polytechnic University of Milan, pressuring a student to change the country of origin on his thesis from “Taiwan” to “China.”
Photo: Screenshot from Twitter
In the video, Chen is seen interrupting a videoconference with several students to directly address the one Taiwanese in the group, surnamed Wang (王).
Speaking in Mandarin, Chen expressed his dissatisfaction that on Wang’s thesis template, he had written his country as “Taiwan,” before telling him that Taiwan “is not a country” and is not recognized by the EU.
“When I see you write [your nationality] that way, as a Chinese person I have to say something... I hope you won’t think I’m using my position as a teacher to bully you,” he said, adding that he was just trying to have a “dialogue” and that the issue would not affect Wang’s thesis or grades.
Taiwan’s representative office in Italy said that it contacted the university’s rector, Ferruccio Resta, after learning of the video on Friday last week, and also discussed the student’s treatment with the school’s department of architecture, where the student is enrolled.
Resta on Monday said that the university’s disciplinary committee had opened an investigation into the incident to determine whether Chen’s actions had contravened the school’s code of ethics and conduct.
The video was originally posted by Chen himself to his Chinese WeChat account on March 18, along with pictures showing how the student had changed his country of origin to “China” as a result of the professor’s “communication.”
The video later drew attention on Twitter when it was shared on Thursday last week by Wu Lebao (吳樂寶), a Chinese dissident who has received asylum in Australia.
The video, which had been viewed more than 450,000 times as of yesterday, has drawn condemnation from Italian politicians across the political spectrum.
“The Polytechnic of Milan should suspend this teacher who assaults and bullies a Taiwanese student by imposing on him a geopolitical lesson with the worst language of Chinese propaganda,” Gianni Vernetti, a former senator and deputy minister from the left-leaning Democratic Party, wrote on Twitter.
Lucio Malan, a senator from the conservative Brothers of Italy party, said that Chen was trying to “re-educate” the Taiwanese student, adding that he expects an explanation from the government.
An editorial on Monday in Milan’s il Giornale daily headlined, “And in Italy it is now forbidden to declare oneself from Taiwan,” said that Chen contravened the Taiwanese student’s human and civil rights.
The author said that despite Taiwan’s “delicate” international situation, it is for all practical purposes a sovereign state, maintains close commercial and unofficial diplomatic ties with many nations, and is recognized by the Vatican.
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