Solomon Islands students in limbo after diplomatic switch

09/18/2019 06:46 PM
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Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) The future of more than 100 Solomon Islands students in Taiwan is left uncertain after their country and Taiwan ended 36-years of diplomatic ties Monday.

Taiwan announced its decision to cut diplomatic ties with the Solomon Islands as the South Pacific island-nation decided to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing earlier that day. The severing of ties leaves Taiwan with only 16 diplomatic allies.

According to the foreign ministry, there are 125 Solomon Islands students studying in Taiwan, 84 of whom are under Taiwan government- funded scholarships.

After the severance of ties, foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said the government will continue to provide the recipients with scholarships until the end of the semester.

It is Taiwan's policy to no longer grant scholarships to students from diplomatic allies or cut off existing scholarships if their country severs diplomatic ties, which would make it very difficult for these students to continue their studies in Taiwan because they would have to pay their own tuition and living expenses.

According to a message that has been circulating around Solomon Islanders in Taiwan sent by Solomon Islands Ambassador to Taiwan Joseph Waleanisia, the envoy called on the students to remain calm, saying that their government is working on plans to repatriate them.

According to a previous Solomon Islands media report, the Chinese government has pledged that the students will be welcome to study in China should they wish to.

A former Solomon Islands student in Taiwan told CNA that this is hardly the case.

Identified only by her Chinese name Hua Wen-di (華溫帝), the woman, who studied for seven years in Taiwan from 2006 to 2013 before returning to her home country to work, said in a Facebook post that "everyone thinking that everything will be smooth sailing for our students in Taiwan are just ignorant."

"Imagine being forced to leave an environment that is friendly, safe and an environment that respects you as an individual and as a citizen of Solomon Islands," she said in the post.

Moving these students to China will not guarantee that they will have a say on their new programs or that they will be taught in English, she continued.

She blasted her government's decision to switch diplomatic allegiance.

"Do they have a framework in place to manage our students' needs during this transition period? Have they been in contact with universities in China who will take our students? Or is that another one of those false promises?" she asked.

Hua, who studied Chinese at Fu Jen Catholic University before attending National Chung Hsing University and later transferring to Ming Chuan University, expressed gratitude to the Taiwanese government and its people for taking care of her and all Solomons Islands students.

Other students who have been contacted by CNA either declined to be interviewed or did not respond to interview requests. One of the students said she was advised not to speak to the media until the students have been informed of their future.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese education authorities and some Taiwanese universities said they are willing to help the Solomon Islands students find new scholarships to sustain their studies here.

The education ministry's Department of International and Cross-strait Education told CNA it will make sure the universities will do everything they can to help Solomon Islands students who wish to continue to study in Taiwan.

The Taoyuan-based Yuan Ze University, where 11 Solomon Islands students are studying, also told CNA that they will solicit help and funding from local enterprises to support their studies.

(By Joseph Yeh, Emerson Lim, and Hsu Chih-wei)


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