MAC expresses regret over China student ban

04/09/2020 11:36 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, April 9 (CNA) Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) on Thursday expressed regret over China's decision to ban graduating students from pursuing further education in Taiwan this year, in an announcement made earlier that day.

The decision was made considering "the current situation of the COVID-19 outbreak and cross-strait relations" said the statement, which was issued by China's Ministry of Education.

"We have decided to suspend graduating students at all levels from pursuing further education in Taiwan in 2020; students who are already studying in Taiwan will be free to decide whether they wish to continue their studies there," the ministry said.

The ministry emphasized that its top priority is to resolve the problems faced by Chinese students who have been prevented from returning to their schools in Taiwan and to protect their rights.

The recruitment policies of universities in China towards Taiwanese students remain unchanged, the ministry said.

In response to China's announcement, MAC Deputy Minister and Spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) expressed regret, saying that China's unilateral decision ignores students' rights.

Since the government began welcoming students from China to study in Taiwan in 2011, our policy has been consistent, and we have ensured these students' right to education here, Chiu said at a press conference.

As for China's criticism that Taiwan is blocking Chinese students from entering the country, Chiu said that many schools in mainland China have yet to begin classes since the COVID-19 outbreak, and the Chinese government has postponed college entrance exams by one month.

"China's continued insistence that we let Chinese students return, when the situation vis a vis the pandemic is not yet stable, is incredibly contradictory, unreasonable and irresponsible," Chiu said.

Mainland Chinese students studying in Taiwan have been banned from entering the country since Jan. 26.

As a result, only 800 of the about 8,000 mainland students enrolled at Taiwanese schools are in Taiwan, while approximately 7,000 are in China, according to Chiu.

Taiwan's Ministry of Education (MOE) also expressed regret over China's decision on Thursday, saying that the measures applied to mainland Chinese students were all taken for epidemic prevention purposes, and there was no better alternative.

The ministry has rolled out policies to ensure these students' right to education amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to strive to create a friendly environment for mainland students in Taiwan, a MOE official told CNA.

However, China's decision has raised concerns among university presidents in Taiwan, including Shih Hsin University President Wu Yeong-chyan (吳永乾), who told CNA that it will negatively impact academic exchanges between the two sides.

Even if China reverses the policy next year, there will still be a chasm in academic exchanges, Wu said, adding that it is worrying Taiwan doesn't know when China will end the ban.

Michael Chen (陳振貴), President of Shih Chien University, also shared his concerns over the decision with CNA.

According to Chen, Taiwanese universities face difficulties in recruiting students due to the falling birth rate in the country. As China is a major source of overseas students, it could make recruitment efforts even harder, Chen said.

Chen also noted that the number of Chinese students studying in Taiwan has dropped since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came into power.

Now that China has stopped Chinese students from coming to Taiwan, it is not impossible the number of mainland students here could fall to zero, Chen said, adding that he hopes this situation can be avoided.

(By Lai Yen-hsi, Chen Chih-Chung, Phoenix Hsu and Chiang Yi-ching)

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