Taipei, March 3 (CNA) Taiwan and China on Friday called on each other to refrain from politically interfering in educational exchanges they had promised to continue in spite of their icy relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office last May.
In Taipei, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said while Taiwan respects both freedom of speech and academic freedom and wants to continue exchanges with China, "we hope there will be no political interferences" in academic exchanges.
He stressed that advocating any political ideas, including those calling for Taiwan's unification with China and those calling for Taiwan's independence from China, is within the boundary of freedom of speech in Taiwan.
In Beijing, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said it is the duty of both sides to provide a "good environment for study" to Chinese students studying in Taiwan and to ensure that their life on Taiwan's campuses will not be "politically interfered with."
Ma noted that "some people in Taiwan" are trying to "politically stir up and intervene in" student-exchange programs between Taiwanese and Chinese universities, warning such words and deeds would only "harm cross-strait educational exchanges."
Allowing each side's students to study at the other's universities suddenly came under scrutiny after Shih Hsin University's School of Lifelong Learning was accused on Thursday of signing a pledge in December with several Chinese universities that the classes it offers would not involve politically-sensitive subjects or activities.
The university, famed for training future journalists, also 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 Democratic Progressive Party 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 Taiwan's political status.
Yeh and other DPP lawmakers suspected that Shih Hsin University might have violated government rules on cooperative activities with Chinese counterparts, which, according to Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠), must be "based on reciprocity."
DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei(陳亭妃) on Thursday urged Pan to check if other schools have signed similar agreements in violation of academic freedom.
Education Ministry officials said Friday after looking into the issue, they found at least six universities, including National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, had signed "similar" agreements with their Chinese counterparts.
Yeh I-jan (葉一璋), head of Shih Hsin's Office of Public Affairs, said that some Chinese schools did ask 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, stressing it is primarily intended to safeguard students' right to education.
National Tsing Hua University, Chung Yuan Christian University and Chung Hua University also denied that the document they signed with respective Chinese counterparts was about consenting to the concept of "one China."
Tsing Hua said it was about sticking to the principle of "no politics in academic exchanges."
In their respective statements, Chung Yuan and Chung Hua said they had made it a point in their agreements with Chinese universities that their students will be staying on their Taiwan campuses "purely for academic purposes" and will not be involved in any political debates in Taiwan.
(By Chiu Chun-chin, Lu Kang-chun, Liu Kuan-ting, Lawrence Chiu and