Tourists take photos from Xiangshan Mountain in Taipei, Southeast China’s Taiwan, June 20, 2019. Photo: Xinhua

China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Thursday the Chinese mainland would suspend all programs and work that involves sending mainland students to study in Taiwan, given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and current cross-Straits relations.

According to a statement released on the ministry’s website, the policies for Taiwan students to apply for mainland universities will remain unchanged for 2020. Currently, the most important mission is to guarantee mainland students at Taiwan universities can return to Taiwan to finish their studies as the island authority has banned all mainland residents from entering Taiwan, the statement also said.  

According to the Xinhua News Agency, since the separatist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority in Taiwan issued a temporary travel ban for mainland residents on February 6, and most Taiwan schools and universities opened in late February and early March, many mainland students who had already returned home for the holidays could not go back to Taiwan and finish their courses.

The legal demand among mainland students didn’t receive a response or any assistance from the DPP authority, and Taiwan universities also failed to help protect mainland students’ legal right to receive an education, and instead passed the buck and kicked the students off the island, officials told Xinhua.

Zheng Bo-yu, 32, from Taiwan, has worked in Beijing for years and told the Global Times that this shows cross-Strait relations have worsened, and students are just the victims of the politics. 

Zheng, also manager of the Beijing-based Vstartup Station of Taiwan, an institution helping Taiwan youth apply to mainland universities and gain internships at mainland firms, said that “the DPP authority is using the pandemic as an excuse to cut off the people-to-people exchange between the mainland and the island.”

The mainland’s decision is not a surprise as the island doesn’t allow anyone from the mainland to enter Taiwan anyway, he noted. 

However, the mainland didn’t retaliate to innocent Taiwan students, who can still come to the mainland, according to the education ministry’s statement. Taiwan students on the mainland are well-protected, and none of the Taiwan students on the mainland has been infected with COVID-19, Xinhua reported on Thursday.  

Zheng predicted that Taiwan students who apply at mainland universities would drop by 40 percent this year, and it’s because of the pandemic, but the fundamental reason is that the DPP authority and separatists in Taiwan have already poisoned cross-Straits ties.