A Chinese professor at the Polytechnic University of Milan has sparked controversy after a video surfaced of him pressuring a Taiwanese student to change his place of origin from “Taipei, Taiwan” to “Taipei, China.”
The professor, Chen Zhen, is seen teaching through a Zoom call in English when he suddenly explains that he will speak with a student, identified only as Wang, in Mandarin.
Chen then explains in Mandarin that he noticed that Wang had written his country of origin as “Taipei, Taiwan” on his dissertation paper and proceeds to lecture the student on how “Taiwan belongs to China.”
“What I want to say is that first, the entire EU, including Italy, believes that Taiwan belongs to China,” Chen tells Wang, according to the video translation. “You should know that no EU government, including most countries in the world… no EU government officially recognizes Taiwan as a country.”
Chen then continues to explain that the Taiwanese government does not constitute “an independent Taiwan” and that China’s constitution states Taiwan is “only a province, not a country.”
The professor goes on to claim that his lecture directed towards Wang remains unrelated to his thesis or grades, explaining that he felt compelled to say something “as a Chinese.” Chen then insists that he is not trying to bully or “mistreat” Wang, saying he hopes to have an “exchange between people.”
After listening to Chen’s lecture, however, the student made the decision to change his country of origin from “Taipei, Taiwan” to “Taipei, China” on his paper, titled “A Comparative Study of Iranian Gardens and Chinese Gardens.”
The Taiwan representative office in Italy has sent a letter to the university defending the rights of Taiwanese students, and the school is now conducting an investigation into whether Chen violated teaching ethics.
Gianni Vernetti, Italy’s former foreign minister, tweeted that he believes Chen should be suspended for teaching Chinese propaganda, while Senator Lucio Malan tweeted that he believes the incident is an example of “re-education of Taiwan students by Chinese teachers.”
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