UTSUNOMIYA, TOCHIGI PREF. – Students from Taiwan studying at universities in the disaster-stricken northeast at their own expense were barred from applying for emergency funds that the central government made available to foreign students, according to sources.
The education ministry said they were ineligible “because of the lack of diplomatic relations with Taiwan.”
The ministry could face criticism for its inflexibility, as people in Taiwan have been among the most generous donors to Japan following the March 11 quake and tsunami, contributing around ¥17 billion.
To support foreign students studying in Japan at their own expense, the education ministry decided to take an emergency measure to treat them equally as students on government scholarship programs, according to the ministry.
In late March, it notified universities in the Tohoku and Kanto regions to solicit applications for relief payments of ¥125,000 per undergraduate student for one month.
Because government scholarships are provided to “those who have nationality of a country that has diplomatic relations with Japan” and the ministry attached the same condition for the relief program, Taiwanese students were excluded, according to the ministry. Japan severed its ties with Taiwan in 1972 to switch diplomatic recognition to China.
As of May 2010, around 1,800 students from Taiwan were studying in undergraduate programs throughout Japan, according to the Japan Student Services Organization.
At a private university in Tochigi Prefecture, at least two students have lodged a protest.
The relief program also covered graduate students and those from Taiwan were also apparently eligible. Twenty-five Taiwanese graduate students received payments through the Interchange Association, which serves as Japan’s de facto embassy for Taiwan.
ACCJ plans task force
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan said it will establish a new task force involving businesses, academics and government officials to support reconstruction efforts in the Tohoku region.
The chamber’s Tohoku Revitalization Task Force will explore how best to help rebuild the disaster-ravaged area with particular focus on job creation, training, financing and promotion of special economic zones, ACCJ officials said Friday.