Taipei, March 2 (CNA) A university in Taipei may have violated the law by failing to inform the Ministry of Education of an agreement with Chinese universities in a bid to attract Chinese students, legislators from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said Thursday.
At issue is Shih Hsin University's School of Lifelong Learning, which signed a pledge in December with several Chinese universities that the classes it offers would not involve politically sensitive activities and undertook not to engage in any activities related to
"one China, one Taiwan," "two Chinas" and "Taiwan independence," as it welcomed 11 Chinese students to study in Shih Hsin from February to June this year.
Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), a DPP caucus whip in the Legislature, said universities should promote freedom of speech, but by signing this agreement Shih Hsin has effectively banned students from discussing international relations and the political orientation of Taiwan.
Yeh said under the Act governing Relations between People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, whenever a school in Taiwan forms a coalition or engages in cooperative activity or a written agreement with Chinese counterparts, it is required to inform the Ministry of Education and seek its consent in advance.
DPP Legislator Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純 ) said that Shih Hsin has violated that regulation and is therefore subject to a fine of between NT$10,000 (US$325) and NT$500,000, asking the Ministry of Education to deal with the matter as soon as possible.
Speaking at a legislative hearing, Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said Shih Hsin had not informed the ministry about the written agreement.
Pan noted that the government encourages cross-strait academic exchanges, but such exchanges must be "based on reciprocity." The ministry undertook to investigate the matter before deciding how to proceed.
He also said the ministry believes the Chinese universities involved are Jiangsu Normal University, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University and Zhejiang University of Media and Communications.
DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei(陳亭妃) expressed concern that other schools might have signed similar agreements in violation of academic freedom and asked the ministry to conduct a thorough check, which Pan promised to do.
Shih Hsin said the agreement stipulated only that the class will not touch on politically sensitive issues, which is in no way the same as supporting the "one China" principle.
Yeh I-jan (葉一璋), head of Shih Hsin's Office of Public Affairs, said that the school deals with about 100 universities in mainland China and engages in frequent exchanges with half of them.
Only a few have asked Shih Hsin to sign such an agreement before agreeing to let their students come to Taiwan.
"However, the agreement is aimed at avoiding politically sensitive issues and in no way constitutes recognition of 'one-China,'" Yeh said.
Yeh defended the agreement, saying it is primarily intended to safeguard students' right to education.
As Chinese students visiting Shih Hsin mostly major in tourism, broadcasting or television, the school strives to ensure the classes remain academically neutral, Yeh said.
"It is the same as Taiwanese students who don't want to hear about unification all the time when in the mainland," Yeh said.
(By Justin Su, Hsu Chih-wei and Lilian Wu)