Chen Zhen, the lecturer, is shown lecturing in English through Zoom when he abruptly announces that he will talk with a student named Wang in Mandarin.
Chen then goes on to explain in Mandarin that he noted Wang’s country of origin on his dissertation paper was “Taipei, Taiwan,” and starts to educate 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 goes on to say that the Taiwanese government does not represent “an independent Taiwan,” and that Taiwan is “just a province, not a nation” according to China’s constitution.
The professor goes on to clarify that his talk to Wang had nothing to do with his thesis or grades, and that he felt forced to speak up “as a Chinese.” Chen then argues that he is not trying to intimidate or “mistreat” Wang, but wishing for a “exchange of ideas.”
However, after hearing Chen’s presentation, the student changed his nation of origin on his paper, titled “A Comparative Study of Iranian Gardens and Chinese Gardens,” from “Taipei, Taiwan” to “Taipei, China.”
The Taiwanese representative office in Italy filed a letter to the university protecting Taiwanese students’ rights, and the institution is currently investigating whether Chen broke teaching principles.
Senator Lucio Malan feels the episode is an example of “re-education of Taiwan kids by Chinese professors,” while Gianni Vernetti, Italy’s former foreign minister, believes Chen should be punished for teaching Chinese propaganda.