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Teachers in Taiwan may be banned from being involved in politics

12/06/2009

Under the Ma regime, the KMT has now made their move on restricting teachers’ freedom of being involved in political activities and public discussions. This month, the Judicial and Statues Committees of the Parliament passed the Act Governing the Administrative Impartiality of Public Officials, which stipulates that all teaching staff with management or central admin responsibilities in national universities have to remain ‘politically neutral’.

When the Act was passed, a resolution attached to it also went through. This resolution obliges the Ministry of Education to explore general opinions and draft the Educational Fundamental Act, which extends the above restrictions to teaching staff without management or central admin responsibilities as well. If this becomes a law, teachers will still be allowed to join political parties or groups BUT cannot take on any official positions within the party/group. They will NOT be allowed to be part of a campaign team for a political candidate. They will be banned from organising/joining rallies and protests, initiating petitions or publically campaigning for any candidates even outside of working hours. They cannot put their names and affiliations on any media adverts or promotions. Those who regularly appear on political talk shows offering expert comments will NOT be allowed to do so.

The MoE sent out a survey, gauging teachers’ views and reactions on the above ideas and has met with heavy criticisms and strong resistance from teachers and their union. Prof. Lin at Department of Social Work, National Taiwan University wrote an article to discuss this issue. He pointed that the MoE had already explained in the parliament that those without admin and/or management responsibilities do not have power and authority and therefore should not be treated the same as those in the management or central admin. This indicates that the MoE was quite clear about their stance on this and Prof. Lin questioned why it is necessary to do the survey?

I believe that while teachers should not use their authority to impose their own political views on their students in the classroom, they should be allowed to facilitate discussions on national issues and social policies and leave the students to decide for themselves. Prof. Lin brought up a few examples:

1) Can senior high school civics teachers discuss with students whether the president should take over the party chair?

2) Can a professor of politics comment on whether the DPP Kaohsiung Mayer should visit China?

3) Can a teacher set the following exam question: discuss the pros and cons of ECFA?

Furthermore, teachers should not be restricted in their involvement in or comments on politics outside of their working hours. What they do in their own time has nothing to do with the neutral stance they take in the classroom.

It looks like the Ma administration is quite determined in advancing their control over every segment of the society, ignoring principles of human rights and freedom despite people’s anger and resistance. One of the reasons why Ma doesn’t care very much about people’s views is their control over the media. They can cover up their incompetence and human rights suppression by buying the media off. For a while by now, those blue friendly media, which is the majority in Taiwan, have often conveniently forgotton, skipped or toned down news related to government screw ups or human rights violations. This article in Taipei Times explains how the government pays the media to have their journalists write ‘adverts and promotions’ for them as news articles (placement marketing) to show the government in a favourable light when their policies have clearly failed. From GIO Minister’s response, I don’t think they will really stop because he said he told other cabinet ministers not to be so ‘obviously embarrassing’ (難看). The connotation can be translated as ‘obvious’. So in other words, it will be OK if they do it in a more delicate and subtle way and are not so obvious?

Being unified with China or not, the once free and democratic Taiwan may become a distant memory under the Ma administration if the opposition party cannot pull itself together and send stronger messages across right now.

References:

http://blog.udn.com/jjoin5555/3008765

http://www.lihpao.com/news/in_p1.php?art_id=31088

8 Comments leave one →
  1. J. Michael Cole permalink
    14/06/2009 12:15

    “It looks like the Ma administration is quite determined in advancing their control over every segment of the society, ignoring principles of human rights and freedom despite people’s anger and resistance.”

    I think the reason why the Ma administration has been able to do this is that there has been very little of the “anger” and “resistance” you write about. For months now we’ve seen signs of democratic regression, and the response has been apathetic at best. I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever see the day when people say “enough is enough” and do what is necessary to derail the increasingly authoritarian train.

    • Claudia Jean permalink*
      14/06/2009 16:15

      I appreciate your viewpoint. But… I think the ‘anger’ Taiwanese showed in 830, 1025 and 517 rallies says something. I’ve thought about this for a long time and been wondering whether the anger threshold for the Taiwanese population has to be estimated and understood in a different way.

      I think that a lot of people are quite oblivious, buying whatever those blue friendly media feed them. The effects of decades of the KMT ‘education’ are quite entrenched. In Chen’s case, there are just that many people who can’t distinguish between ‘speaking up for human rights’ and ‘condoning/supporting corruptions’. Then, a lot of those who can actually see the difference give in to this kind of ill logic and keep their mouths shut.

      Many of those who are aware of the situation are very defeatist. This may have something to do with the past experience and the overwhelming force. One thing that certainly affects their feelings and motivations is the DPP’s performance over the past year… (sigh)

    • 14/06/2009 17:02

      “I think the reason why the Ma administration has been able to do this is that there has been very little of the “anger” and “resistance” you write about. For months now we’ve seen signs of democratic regression, and the response has been apathetic at best. I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever see the day when people say “enough is enough” and do what is necessary to derail the increasingly authoritarian train.”

      This is very strange. It’s surprising you seem to have missed what’s been going on in Taiwan the last few months.

      It’s well understood that if Ma held an election today, he would loose.
      http://www.globaltimes.cn/www/english/china/top_photo/2009-05/431348.html
      Ma is currently one of the most unpopular political figures in Taiwan. One of the points of this post is the role of the current situation in quashing discussion on his relationship with China, the economy, or his complete inability to fulfill any of his election promises. Ma’s problem is that there is an outcry. He’s just trying to make it illegal to take part in it.

      • J. Michael Cole permalink
        15/06/2009 03:20

        Claudia, Scott:

        I agree there’s been rallies in recent months, with good turnouts. But what good have they done? It’s one thing to take to the streets and express your discontent, but the KMT and the international media seem to have largely ignored them, so much so that if you asked anyone outside Taiwan how Ma is doing, the great majority would reply that he is doing well and that he has the support of most Taiwanese, which, from our perspective here in Taiwan, obviously isn’t the case. And Scott, I fully agree with you that Ma is very unpopular, but history is full of unpopular presidents who nevertheless managed to take their country down a disastrous path. A protracted disaster could be something Taiwan simply could not recuperate from. So what I mean when I write that the response of Taiwanese has been apathetic isn’t that they haven’t demonstrated — I work in a newspaper here, I’ve seen those — but rather that they have sustained a means of expressing opposition that may just not be appropriate for the situation.

  2. 16/06/2009 03:02

    There is a long history in the international press of ignoring Taiwan. Partly it’s the fault of the people who live not writing enough for the media. Partly it’s the fault of the pathetic excuse for English newspapers that we have here. But primarily it’s the fault of bad reporting from the English-language. As I wrote about in 2004, http://scottsommers.wordpress.com/who-are-those-people/
    Our friendly foreign observers from west have never seemed concerned about talking with anyone except KMT officials.

    Is it a conspiracy? Sure it is.

    But if what you mean is an insurrection, things are hardly that bad. There is nothing so far that a bad election for the KMT can’t fix, and the reality is that Ma just may loose the next few key elections. Obviously he’s worried about this.

Trackbacks

  1. Taiwan: Some more Disturbing News « F. VARGA
  2. Weekly Links – June 18, 2009 « The Daily Bubble Tea
  3. Should politically active teachers be banned? « BBC World Have Your Say

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