NewTalk reported on National Tsinghua University's attempt to rein in its student protesters.
清大今天發出聲明，對於陳為廷昨天在立法院的不當行為「深感痛心」，也對蔣偉寧及社會大眾所造成的傷害致上最深的歉意。Tsinghua University was responding to comments by Chen Wei-ting in a session of the legislature yesterday in which he and others criticized Minister of Education Chiang for the Ministry's email which asked universities to "care for" students protesting. To many ears it sounded like a coded authoritarian message. The Taipei Times reported on the legislative session in which Chen Wei-ting spoke:
National Tsing Hua University today issued a statement yesterday in the Legislative Yuan, saying that it was "deeply saddened" by the inappropriate behavior of [student leader] Chen Wei-ting and offering its deepest apologies for the harm caused to [Minister of Education] Jiang Weining and the community.
Earlier on Facebook Chen Wei-ting issued a statement to clarify [his words from yesterday at the Legislative Yuan,] .....he stressed that yesterday's speech was a statement of personal opinion, and was not intended to interrogate Minister Chiang and demand an answer. It is regrettable that it was misinterpreted by outsiders [he said].
While legislators across party lines asked Chiang to apologize for the e-mail, he repeatedly said the ministry would engage in “profound reflection.”Many pixels have been launched along the intertubes about the generational change within the two major political parties, but in a sense this evolution reflects a tremendous social transition: the students in their twenties now grew up in the democratic era, while those who sit in judgment on them are relics of the authoritarian period, in many cases formally and informally vetted to ensure they had proper political views when they entered the system back in the 1980s. The two sides speak to each other out of completely different cultural worlds.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純) said the school regulations of 22 of the 37 universities included in the e-mail still included punishments for students who hold assemblies and protests, adding that the ministry should have showed concern by eliminating such rules.
DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said that Chiang should at least apologize for the ministry’s inability to show real concern for students, even if he would not for its misguided wish to monitor them.
“We think the ministry’s words of concern are hypocritical,” said Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), convener of the Youth Alliance Against Media Monsters and a National Taiwan University graduate student, adding that the minister could have approached the students when they were protesting in poor weather, or called the premier to tell him about the students’ demands.
“Minister, I think you are full of lies, a hypocrite and a minister that does not know repentance. I don’t think you are qualified to be a minister. Please apologize to us,” said another convener of the alliance, Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), a student at National Tsing Hua University.
This generational clash is particularly profound at the universities, which are structured to prevent students from engaging in exactly this kind of political activity. The universities do not overtly pursue political students but the structures remain in place, latent. Workloads are heavy, students have limited choice. The nation's universities are famously paternalistic, an attitude that is always threatening to shade into outright authoritarianism, and almost alone among the major institutions of society they have failed to adopt the best practices from abroad (compare that to major Taiwanese firms). There is an almost visceral fear of student political activity; people like Chen Wei-ting and Lin Fei-fan must send shudders coursing up the System's backbone. Moreover, the students quoted in the last couple of days in the media come from sectors long known for pro-Taiwan and pro-democracy political activity: National Taiwan University, frequently described as very Green, and doctors.
Students in every society have a kind of moral force that other protesting groups are often perceived as lacking. Leaders fear this moral authority. In Taiwan student protesters have to contend with what they often describe as a wearisome partisan divide -- they struggle to keep their protests about issues of civil society and human rights that are neither Blue nor Green, to prevent their protests from becoming discredited as merely partisan action. It is to the credit of both sides' legislators, and to the students who struggled to straddle that divide, that legislators of both parties demanded an apology from the Ministry of Education for this apparent attempt to intimidate the protesters. Sadly, no forthright apology was issued....
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