Friday, June 26, 2009

"Political Neutrality" for Teachers

Before we go on to the main event here, I'd just like to take a moment and ask who is in charge at DPP HQ? Are they smoking crack over there? Just when the island needs US support, and when the DPP needs backing from its Congressional and government allies, it up and decides to foment public agitation against US beef imports -- the one export item our government is obsessed with importing into Taiwan. Great move guys -- thanks for making the job of Taiwan advocates in Washington that much harder.

Onwards and downwards.....

Big news in the local papers as the government passes a revised political neutrality law aimed teachers. In Taiwan, teachers are central government employees. The law extends neutrality rules that applied to public servants to all teachers and professors with administrative responsibility, such as Deans or Department Chairs, in public schools, along with all research fellows in public institutions. The new restrictions include hanging, posting, or wearing political symbols of political parties or candidates; holding meetings, initiating rallies, or leading petitions; signing on ad in public media; speaking, rallying, or calling for support on behalf of candidates.

The law is obviously aimed at anyone criticizing the current administration from a position of importance in an educational institution, and is clearly meant to muzzle such individuals. As a commentary in the Liberty Times noted today, the law is vague, and implies that anyone who speaks out on policy from the bully pulpit of a deanship or similar can be criminally charged with abuse of administrative resources. Even part-time administrators appear to fall under the law, and since many ordinary teachers in universities do administrative work or have titles like "Director of Overseas Cooperation", they might well be vulnerable. Imagine too that any Academia Sinica researcher could conceivably be charged with "being political" for commenting in public on an ongoing policy -- say the environmental concerns of the Suhua Highway or a new program to re-introduce Chinese history as the only history in the public schools. The mere fact of having to consider this possibility may have a chilling effect.

It is hard to see how this can have a positive effect on the government's avowed intention, through three Administrations, to internationalize the university system here. The very basis of a university is the open exchange and critique of ideas.

As I've noted before, to move closer to China is to move farther from democracy.

REF: Op-Ed in Liberty Times

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17 comments:

阿牛 said...

How does this not result in all professors being unable to go on talk shows or express opinions about policy; how does this not result in the disbanding or making illegal the Taiwan Society or its branches? I mean seriously, wtf?

Formosan at Heart said...

"We need community to keep our hearts open. So much in this world tells us that what we have to say does not matter. We need to remember that it does, and that we are the only ones to say it." --Michelle Otero

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” --Elie Wiesel

Anonymous said...

I have seen some studies that show Taiwanese academics are predominantly green.

Readin said...

"The new restrictions include hanging, posting, or wearing political symbols of political parties or candidates..."

Does this mean that all the flags featuring the KMT symbol will need to come down?

How about the pictures of Ma when he runs for re-election?

Anonymous said...

The DPP is against beef imports that include bone, i.e. the stuff that near the spine and has the risk of carrying mad cow. Since the US doesn't seem to have done any rigorous testing to assure that mad cow populations have been truly eliminated from its herds and further has not banned the disgusting feed practices that led to it in the first place (feeding processed manure to cows among other things; manure is disgusting instinctively for good reason--it recirculates any disease right back into the population), it's hard to understand why any country should put up with American beef, especially the relatively high risk stuff with bone.

But this is also a perfect issue for the DPP because 1) DPP policy when they had the presidency was to have this conditional letting in of beef, not this unconditional stuff the KMT is trying 2) the KMT wanted an even more rigorous conditions on US beef, but they are completely okay with unconditional imports now? As long as the DPP can convince cable news to roll out the tapes of KMT legislators and their hysterics then for everyone to see, I think this is a perfectly valid issue for the DPP.

Even worse, agricultural products are the stuff that the US negotiates FTAs with other countries over. So the US gets to export beef to Taiwan with some (not negligible) increase in risk of death by a very terrible disease. Then FTA negotiations in a couple of years comes around (if it ever does). What is Taiwan negotiating with the US then?

Anonymous said...

PS Nice to see you back blogging. But no pressure.

Arthur Dent said...

That news is truly horrifying and nothing less that an invidious attempt to 'control' academics and prevent them from contributing to political discourse. What then will happen to the talk shows?

Thanks for raising our attention to this scary development.

Jenna said...

I dunno...my teacher at Shi-da was really deep blue and while she didn't hold rallies or talk too openly about it, she made her views clear.

I would like to see teachers cease doing that on both sides (though because I'm biased it wouldn't bother me so much if a deep green teacher talked about their beliefs).

That said, you can't pass a law to force people to be politically neutral if they're not. It reminds me of dumb corporate team-building camps where they try to push everyone into cheering on 'the team' and doing it for 'the company'.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this a revivial of one of the old laws from the martial law period?

Anonymous said...

Top Blue Legislators to AIT Steven Young: We shouldn't have blocked arms purchases; it's just how you play politics

I've read your blog for a few years now, and I remember way back that you covered Taiwan making a big arms purchase but being blocked by the KMT in the legislative yuan.

Anonymous said...

One of my coworkers bought pizza for his classes to celebrate Ma's presidential victory. He gladly told the students why he was giving them a treat.

yellow dildo said...

just in case but teachers were always the source of political action starting in the shools and univercities. so what does people smoke to get such brainfucked ideas?

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Anonymous said...

It might be worth pointing out to your readers that the Liberty Times is the semi-official mouthpiece of the DPP, and the Taipei Times is an English translation thereof. There is a distinct lack of hysteria in other press and amongst most teachers at whom any new regulations might be aimed.

Michael Turton said...

It might be worth pointing out to your readers that the Liberty Times is the semi-official mouthpiece of the DPP, and the Taipei Times is an English translation thereof. There is a distinct lack of hysteria in other press and amongst most teachers at whom any new regulations might be aimed.

Imagine that -- the pro-China media complaining about attacks on democracy. When does that ever happen?

Everyone knows how such laws are enforced in practice.

Jenna said...

BTW, my comment above wasn't in actual support of the neutrality law. I'm not. I just wish my deep blue Chinese teacher would shut the heck up.

Anonymous said...

Am I right in understanding that this "political neutrality" law so far only affects professors and administrators who work at national universities? I don't see anything about private universities here--is this because only national university faculty and administrators are considered civil servants?