Taipei, May 12 (CNA) Amid concerns over the national security implications of a government policy to open senior secondary education in Taiwan to more students from Hong Kong and Macau, government officials argued Thursday that the change is a positive development.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) recently drafted new rules for Hong Kong and Macau residents studying in Taiwan, allowing senior high schools, vocational schools, and five-year junior colleges in Taiwan to recruit students from the two special administrative regions of China.
Senior high-school students from Hong Kong and Macau are expected to enroll at Taiwan's schools in the upcoming school year in September, according to the MOE, whose new rules were promulgated and took effect on April 25.
Previously, applications from Hong Kong and Macau students to undertake senior secondary education in Taiwan were limited to the National Overseas Chinese Experimental Senior High School located in New Taipei, primarily for students of Chinese descent who come to Taiwan to study.
However, the new policy has raised concerns in certain quarters, mainly on the national security front.
Speaking at a meeting of the Legislature's Committee of Education and Culture Thursday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅) said Taiwan welcomes students from Hong Kong and Macau to study, but the policy also raises concerns.
In light of the increasing influence China has exerted over Hong Kong and Macau for the past two years and the growing number of Hong Kong residents who were born in or emigrated from China, there could be national security risks to Taiwan, he said.
There are also worries that the government could further allow high-school students from Hong Kong and Macau studying in Taiwan to apply for dependent visas for family members on humanitarian grounds, he added.
In response, Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said the policy was part of the government's efforts to attract international talent.
Taiwan's policy to welcome overseas students applies across the board including students from China, Pan said, adding that necessary measures will be put in place to address national security concerns.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), in charge of cross-strait policy, issued a statement Wednesday to clarify "rumors" that high-school students from Hong Kong and Macau studying in Taiwan will be eligible to apply for a national identification card and thereby be entitled to vote.
It noted that HK and Macau residents on student visas are not eligible to apply for a national ID.
The mechanisms to minimize the national security risks associated with students from Hong Kong and Macau studying in Taiwan have been in place since the country opened tertiary education to students from those areas decades ago, MAC said.
Welcoming more students from Hong Kong and Macau will have a lasting impact on its people by raising their awareness of liberal democracy and developing friendly connections with Taiwan, MAC said.
It also offers the young generation in Hong Kong and Macau a choice of destination at a time when willingness to study abroad among many has increased due to severely restricted academic freedom at home because of Chinese government interference, it said.