Chung Yuan University
Chung Yuan University

Taiwanese professor Chao Ming-wei from Chung Yuan Christian University in Taoyuan held a press conference with DPP legislator He Chi-wei earlier this week, in which he accused the school authority of forcing him to apologize to a Chinese student for using the terms “ROC” and “Wuhan Pneumonia.”

The professor stated that during one of his classes, as both a professor and a scientist, he offered his personal observations of COVID-19 based on his acquired expertise.

In his comments Chao stated that the virus does come from Wuhan, China.

In addition, he claimed that the number of confirmed cases provided by China is doubtful.

Chao went on to mention his personal experiences in confronting racial discrimination in the U.S.

“It was these three points that infuriated the Chinese student,” in question said Chao, “I was not only told to apologize but also warned that I shouldn’t mention the ROC.”

Is academic freedom on trial?

Legislator He Chi-wei also stated, “The academic freedom of schools should be respected, but to ban professors from saying our country’s name is just plain ridiculous.”

He criticized the university for wanting to attract Chinese students, but paying no heed to national dignity.

The school authority meanwhile issued a statement refuting the professor’s claims.

“Chung Yuan Christian University is a school based in the Republic of China and never forbids any professor from mentioning this fact.”

Adding “We are always dedicated to creating a friendly learning space, and to safeguard the educational rights of students from every country or region is our duty” the school emphasized the importance of mutual respect.

It is understood by The Taiwan Times that the school authority further explained that during the biochemistry class in question, on March 3rd, many parts of Professor Chao’s lecture had nothing to do with the course itself, and that the school was just suggesting he improve his class in this regard.

The school indicated that they will be more careful with wording such suggestions in future.

Professor Chao, however, denies the school’s version of events, calling them excuses in order for the school to defend the Chinese student and spread rumors about him discriminating against the Chinese student.

Video evidence

As the dispute gains further traction amongst the general public, a videoclip provided by the school shows the professor speaking aggressively directly at the Chinese student.

In the video, Professor Chao mentioned China’s dairy product scandal of 2008, pointing out the fact that the testing systems in China often fails.

He went on to suggest the true number of coronavirus cases provided by China cannot be trusted.

Afterwards, he pointed to the camera used in taping the lecture to say to Chinese students stuck in China because of COVID-19 “Yes, I am talking about you.”

Legislator He Chi-wei responded, “This is a smear campaign. I feel so bad that the school authority never addresses the real issue, but only keeps defaming professor Chao.”

Professor Chao also posted on Instagram saying the videoclip was “fabricated” and “intentionally edited.”

He further contended that Chung Yuan Christian University only cares about the feelings of Chinese students instead of a professor’s freedom of speech in class.

Taiwan Affairs Office China
Taiwan Affairs Office China logo

The Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesperson in China condemned professor Chao’s behavior after hearing of the controversy stating “The Taiwanese government keeps (worsening) the Chinese students learning space, which is completely against academic ethics and integrity” adding “There is zero tolerance for any forms of discrimination against Chinese students.”

The spokesperson pointed out that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should bear the full responsibility.

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