By Sean Lin / Staff reporter
At least 157 universities nationwide have signed agreements with Chinese institutions promising not to mention issues regarding “one China,” “one China, one Taiwan” or Taiwanese independence in class, a preliminary investigation by the Ministry of Education （MOE） found yesterday.
Among the national universities that have signed such agreements are National Taiwan University, National Cheng Kung University, National Tsing Hua University, National Chiao Tung University, National Chengchi University, National Sun Yat-sen University, National Chung Hsing University, National University of Kaohsiung, National Dong Hwa University and National Taitung University, as well as technology institutions National Taiwan University of Science and Technology and National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, the investigation showed.
Private universities that have signed such agreements include Shih Hsin University, Fu Jen Catholic University, Chinese Culture University, Tamkang University, Tunghai University and Feng Chia University, the ministry said.
It said it expects to complete the investigation in two weeks to ascertain the reasons the agreements were signed as well as their scope.
The ministry added it would hold a meeting with the Mainland Affairs Council to determine whether and how the schools are to be punished for possible breaches of the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area （臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例）.
Meanwhile, the schools named in the probe denied they had signed “letters of agreement” asserting Beijing’s “one China” principle, which claims Taiwan is part of China.
National Taiwan University secretary-general Lin Ta-te （林達德） said demands by Chinese institutions that the university sign a “letter of agreement” as a precondition for academic exchanges soared after President Tsai Ing-wen （蔡英文） assumed the presidency in May last year.
However, the school has since Aug. 16 last year stopped signing such agreements out of concern that it might not be able to fully adhere to China’s demands, he said, adding that since then, the university has opted to issue “statements” addressed to Chinese institutions declaring that it would not discuss cross-strait relations.
National Cheng Kung University said the letter it signed was aimed at informing Chinese students that they would not receive “political” instruction at the school.
Many schools signed similar documents years ago, which does not mean they endorse Beijing’s “one China” principle, it added.
National Chiao Tung University denied having signed a letter of consent, saying the letter is not an accord, but an “explanation” to faculty members and students and therefore does not require the ministry’s approval.
The letters said that Chinese students would not participate in political discussions during their time at the university, and the phrase “one China” is not mentioned in the letter, the university said, adding that its purpose was to help Chinese students more quickly pass review procedures in China.
National Sun Yat-sen University said the letter it signed cannot be called a “letter of agreement,” as it was only an “attachment” rather than an official document.
It said it has not downgraded the nation’s status, calling on the public to refrain from attaching such labels to the school and have confidence in the nation’s academic freedoms, freedom of speech and the democratic values by which it has stood.
Fu Jen University said it has launched a probe into any agreements on academic exchanges that its management and colleges have signed, but added it has no jurisdiction over documents signed by its departments to promote cross-strait exchanges.
New Power Party Legislator Hsu Yung-ming （徐永明） urged the ministry to find out when the documents were signed to determine whether past administrations had been negligent over the issue.
Calling the the agreements “the biggest laughingstock in the history of education,” Hsu called on the ministry to hold former ministers of education to account, adding that “united front” tactics employed by Beijing on Taiwanese universities must be rooted out.
Additional reporting by Liu Wan-chun, Yeh Kuan-yu, Hung Ting-hung, Wang Chun-chieh and CNA
Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung speaks at a forum in Miaoli County yesterday. Pan said the ministry will handle the issue of universities having signed “letters of agreement” with China in accordance with the law. Photo: Peng Chien-lee, Taipei Times