Taipei issues warning to academics lured to China

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council or MAC – the policy-making body that deals with China – last week clarified that teachers and professors who take up offers to work on the Chinese mainland would be subject to ‘sanctions’ if they receive salaries or benefits linked to China’s Communist Party.

MAC and Taiwan’s ministry of education last week advised educators to “familiarise themselves with the law” before applying for any work positions or funding from Chinese universities or research programmes to avoid falling foul of Taiwan’s laws.

The clarification comes in response to China’s recently announced 31 measures to give Taiwan students, graduates, researchers and academics as well as professionals and businessmen equal status with mainlanders in order to attract talent and business from Taiwan, sparking fears of a brain drain from Taiwan.

According to Taiwan’s law regulating cross-strait relations, its citizens may not serve as members or employees of institutions administered by the Communist Party of China, Chinese government or military organisations on the mainland.

Taiwan’s Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung told the education and culture committee of the Legislative Yuan or parliament last Monday that academics, teachers and those working in cultural industries would be restricted by Taiwan laws in the scope of their activities, including being barred from involvement in any activities of the Communist Party or Chinese armed forces.

Failure to comply could lead to them being investigated and prosecuted under Taiwan’s national security laws.

In the most extreme cases Taiwan’s researchers could even be accused of spying for the mainland.

Sensitive research areas

The ministry of education has also said it may bar academics working in particular research areas of strategic importance such as semiconductor technology and said it would seek to list and protect sensitive research areas under regulations to be drawn up, as well as clarifying the role of Taiwanese patent holders, who may be required as part of their job offers on the mainland to transfer patents to mainland Chinese companies.

Under the ’31 incentives’ plan to lure people from Taiwan, academics from the island will be eligible for grants from China’s natural sciences, social sciences and arts foundations. China is not only keen to attract academics who can do research and teach science and engineering but also wants to attract faculty in the humanities, culture and arts to boost its burgeoning arts and culture industries, with a large number of arts courses opening up on the mainland in recent years.

Taiwan allows Taiwanese to participate in China’s Thousand Talents programme which provides generous salaries and incentives to lure foreign researchers to the mainland.

Academics on the mainland said that while universities are not Communist Party institutions, under more recent changes the line between the Party and university management in China has become more blurred, with top-level university posts going to Party members, and Party chiefs appointed to many private universities. This could put a ceiling on some promotion prospects for Taiwan academics moving to mainland universities. They may also not be able to take up Party-owned housing as part of their benefits packages.

Ideological education is compulsory for students, including some researchers, on university campuses on the mainland.

Ideological controls imposed by Beijing include forbidding professors from criticising socialism in the classroom, as well as banning topics such as Taiwan’s independence from China. The mainland regards Taiwan as a renegade province that will eventually be reunited with China.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said universities must become ideological strongholds of the Party, serving Party rule and promoting socialism. “The most important thing is the adherence to Party leadership,” Xu Wu, Party secretary of the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province in eastern China, told the 19th Communist Party Congress in October, adding: “Universities must stick to the mission of training the builders and successors of the socialist cause.”