A passenger walks past a flight information board at Taoyuan International airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on March 18, 2020. (Photo/Agencies）
Students from the Chinese mainland planning to apply to study in Taiwan this year will be barred from doing so due to the COVID-19 pandemic and cross-Straits relations, the Ministry of Education said on Thursday.
Mainland students who have already been studying at Taiwan universities and are willing to continue their studies on the island may do so, according to the ministry's office of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan affairs.
Mainland students are currently prevented from returning to schools in Taiwan. It is important that this problem be resolved and that the students' legitimate rights and interests are safeguarded, the office said.
Universities in Taiwan began new terms at the end of February, but about 8,300 mainland students who are enrolled in Taiwan universities are unable to go back because visits by mainland residents to Taiwan have been suspended since Feb 6.
"The island authorities have ignored the strong appeals of mainland students, and the island universities did nothing to fight for their education rights," the office said.
It urged island authorities to immediately change their unreasonable restrictions and to not take a one-sided approach when emphasizing outbreak prevention.
If the students are unable to go back or have to delay their return, the universities should create measures to help them, including reducing school and accommodation fees and improving the quantity and quality of online courses, it said.
According to the office, mainland universities' policies on the enrollment of Taiwan students will not change this year, and relevant information has been released online.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the mainland education authority has attached great importance to the situation of Taiwan students studying on the mainland, the office said.
Universities are closely following the health conditions of students from Taiwan and have offered remote psychological counseling service. Online courses and activities such as photography, painting and community activities are also available, the office said.
So far, none of the students has been infected with the virus, it said.
Some students from Taiwan do volunteer work in nearby neighborhoods, promoting virus prevention knowledge for residents and contributing to the fight against the virus, it added.
Universities on the mainland will determine their opening times according to local conditions, and the health of Taiwan students will be included in the pandemic prevention and control work, the office said.