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Kiribati students in Taiwan face uncertainty after ties severed

2019/09/20 22:32:14

Kiribati students / photo courtesy of Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology

Taipei, Sept. 20 (CNA) More than 100 Kiribati students currently studying in Taiwan, 50 of them beneficiaries of scholarships granted by the Taiwanese government, are facing an uncertain future after Taiwan's diplomatic relations with the central Pacific nation ended on Friday.

Taiwan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) announced at a press conference earlier in the day that Taiwan was cutting diplomatic ties with Kiribati, after it notified Taipei of its decision to switch allegiance to Beijing.

Kiribati was the second diplomatic ally lost by Taiwan to China this week, after the Solomon Islands made the same decision on Monday.

Currently, there are 110 students from Kiribati studying in Taiwan, and 50 of them are recipients of scholarships provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), according to the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Officials of the MOE said they will respect MOFA's decision as to what to do with the scholarships now that diplomatic ties between Taiwan and students' country have been severed. However, the ministry said it was willing to request the students' schools to provide necessary assistance to them.

Commenting on this, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said MOFA was discussing several options with results expected to be known next week.

As a general practice, Taiwan will stop granting scholarships to students from diplomatic allies that severed ties.

On Tuesday, one day after the Solomon Islands cut ties with Taiwan, Ou said the government will continue to provide scholarships to Solomon Islands student, but only until the end of the semester.

Regarding Kiribati students, there are around 20 of them studying in Tamkang University in northern Taiwan for this school year. School officials said the fate of these students depends largely on the arrangements of the Kiribati government.

But if these students opt to finish their study in Taiwan, the school administration was willing to find a way for them to get discounts on tuition and related fees, school officials said.

In Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, where 15 Kiribati students are enrolled, eight of them are recipients of full scholarships, one was granted a half scholarship and six are studying there at their own expense.

Many Kiribati students went to the school office to inquire about their future after the news of diplomatic severance broke, a school official said, adding that the school will take care of them if they wish to stay.

A Kiribati student said in an interview with CNA that she felt sad upon learning the development but the only thing she and her compatriots can do was to wait for the instructions from the Kiribati embassy in Taiwan.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang, Chen Chih-chung and Emerson Lim)
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