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Taiwanese professor forced to apologize for using term ‘Wuhan virus’

A professor at Taiwan’s Chun Yuan Christian University is in hot water for suggesting the COVID-19 virus originated in China and for referring to it as the “Wuhan virus.”

Dr. William Chao, a biotech assistant professor and one of four certified toxicologists in Taiwan, was discussing nucleic acids with his class on March 13 when he suggested COVID-19 originated in Wuhan. This upset a Chinese student, who complained to the university, demanding an apology from Chao in front of the class.

During the lecture, Chao questioned the infection statistics being released by China, saying, “How is that possible? Right, I’m talking about you,” while motioning to Chinese students attending the lecture by teleconference.

According to a report by The News Lens, Chao was forced to apologize – but his apology brought even more trouble.

The university told Chao his apology could not use the term “Republic of China” – a term used by the Taiwanese to assert their independence from China. Taiwan is currently claimed by the People’s Republic of China, but the people of Taiwan claim they are a sovereign nation.

Chao, who earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, ignored the warning.

“As a professor in the Republic of China, Taiwan, I would not discriminate against anyone, especially in this classroom,” Chao said. “If my speech caused any discomfort, I offer my apology here.”

Yet the university principal was displeased. At a press conference Chao held with Democratic Progress Party legislator Ho Chih-wei on May 11, the professor played a recording of the university principal asking, “Why did you have to emphasize [the Republic of China] in the classroom when there’s a Chinese student present?”

The principal added that the official Republic of China statement asks all Chinese students to “get out,” fearing that emphasizing the country’s sovereignty could make some students feel like outsiders.

According to the school’s administration, Chao’s apology “failed to meet the university’s expectations,” and he was asked to apologize a second time.

During his second apology, Chao said he may not have been sincere enough during his first apology, and said he may have been too hasty in assuming COVID-19’s place of origination.

On his Facebook page, Pan Wen-chung, Taiwan’s education minister, backed Chao.

“Taiwan must defend academic freedom. While academic exchange is necessary, we must not tolerate any act of diminishing our national character,” Pan wrote.

Read the full article here.

MORE: Campus officials may use COVID-19 to restrict free speech, activists say

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