Teachers in Taiwan may be banned from being involved in politics
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.