A Hong Kong alumni group of Taiwanese universities has “strongly condemned” a government department over a controversy whereby the word “national” was removed from the names of schools. The group called the incident “insulting”.

On Monday, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) was criticised for allegedly demanding the word “national” be deleted from the biography of a member of a drama company which performed at a public theatre last week. The member graduated from the Taipei National University of the Arts. Other similar cases have since emerged.

Taipei National University of the Arts. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Hong Kong Federation of Taiwan Universities Alumni Association, a group of Hong Kong alumni from 15 top Taiwanese universities, issued a strong statement criticising the LCSD on Wednesday.

“The ‘LCSD’ willfully interfered with academics upon its own preference and political stance,” the statement read.

“It undoubtedly insulted ‘Taipei National University of the Arts’, stepped on the dignity of the teachers, students, and alumni around the world – some of whom are Hong Kong people – and all the public higher education institutes of Taiwan,” it said.

Historical issue

The association added that the word “national” in schools was based on an order issued by Dr Sun Yat-sen to establish new national colleges after forming the Republic of China in 1912.

The names of the schools were accepted by both governments on the mainland and in Taiwan. Removing “national” from them was political censorship based on an incorrect ideology, the association said.

“We think that the ‘LCSD’ has completely no knowledge of Chinese history, the education system, political situation across the strait and even Chinese characters,” the statement said, demanding the LCSD apologise publicly.

The LCSD’s headquarters. File

Top level

Meanwhile, Cheung Siu-wing, chairman of the Hong Kong Leisure Services Staff General Union, told Apple Daily that any decision by the LCSD related to political, promotional and commercial issues would have to be approved by higher level staff.

Cheung added that there were incidents in the past whereby such decisions were approved by a deputy director, and politically sensitive decisions would be sent up to an assistant director.

However, Cheung was not sure which level was involved in this incident.

Asked by the newspaper if the decision to remove the word “national” from drama programmes was made by Assistant Director (Performing Arts) Elaine Yeung Chi-lan, the LCSD replied that programmes involved different staff and it was not appropriate to point to a specific person.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.