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Former president of Taiwan visits Notre Dame

| Monday, November 21, 2016

The Honorable Ma Ying-jeou, former president of Taiwan, enjoyed a private dinner with over 100 Notre Dame students from the greater China region on Saturday night.

The dinner was hosted by the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian studies, and during the course of the meal, five students shared their experiences at Notre Dame with president Ma.

Senior Zhixing Zhang said Notre Dame fostered the major transitions in his life.

“Through conducting researches on East Asia history, I gradually realized that all the societal changes are stimulated by changes in law, and history makes records of the changes,” Zhang said.

Yizhi Hu, a sophomore studying political science, talked about her research on national identity in the past summer in Taiwan, saying that her experience was far more enriching than the results of the research.

“I constantly marveled at Taiwan’s highly developed society where there was respect for diversity, democracy and the environment,” Hu said. “The experience influenced me deeply as now I seek to become a more open-minded person always willing to learn.”

Ma said he was impressed by the value of Notre Dame’s well-rounded education after hearing the experiences of the students.

Ma also talked about his viewpoint on the recently disputed topic of legalizing LGBT marriage in Taiwan.

“Every year, the government would give 1 million New Taiwan Dollar for local LGBT organizations to organize events like gatherings and marches,” Ma said. “Taipei is now the most friendly city for LGBT groups in Asia. Although it should be further discussed whether we should change the definition of family from the law perspective, it is a human right to be respected of one’s sexual orientation. I’m glad to see that Taiwan exists for democracy and can continue to inspire a freer environment.”

Ma said he had improved relations across the Taiwan strait through student exchange programs.

“I once participated in a student exchange program to the United States when I was a student, and had firsthand experienced how it changed my perspective of the States,” Ma said. “During my presidency, I have increased the number of exchange students between mainland China and Taiwan … . I always believe there would be a non-violent and peaceful way to eliminate differences and resolve issues.”

As part of the event, Ma also had the opportunity to answer several questions from students.

“In your opinion, how should history education be designed and how should contemporary Taiwan history be viewed by the public?” Hu asked.

“Throughout history, there are many incidents that are caused by the government’s inability to act. In these circumstances, I believe it is our responsibility to attack inhumane acts and apologize for the misdeed,” Ma said. “When the former German president apologized at Auschwitz, he said, ‘We’ve come to terms with our past.’ We should definitely view history objectively, and educate students [in] the facts.”

Ma additionally offered his views on globalization and isolationism in regard to China-Taiwan relations.

“China’s succession to Taiwan is actually incomplete,” Ma said. “We don’t deny each other’s existence, but we assist each other in many other significant ways.”

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