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DC cultural center will not invite student leader

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- One of Taiwan's overseas cultural centers in the U.S. has rejected an application made by an overseas Taiwanese association to invite the leader of a student movement that occupied Taiwan's Legislature in mid-March to speak at the center, the Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC, 僑委會) confirmed yesterday.

The decision was made after consulting Taiwanese expatriates on whether the application should be accepted, OCAC Minister Steven Chen (陳士魁) told local media yesterday.

A total of 54 expats participated in a vote that led to the final decision. Thirty-eight of them rejected the application, nine of them expressed approval, while seven of them took a neutral stance, Chen said.

 Since the majority has expressed disapproval of the application, the center decided not to approve the application, Chen noted.

 The Taiwanese American Senior Society (TASS) based in Washington, D.C. filed for the application to invite Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), a researcher at Taiwan's top research institution, Academia Sinica, to give a speech at the culture center on the “predicament and prospects facing Taiwan's democracy” on Aug. 23.

 Huang was one of the leaders of the student movement that occupied Taiwan's Legislature in mid-March to protest a trade-in-services agreement Taiwan signed with China in June 2013.

 Due to the sensitivity of Huang's background, overseas Taiwanese in the U.S. capital are divided on the issue. The culture center ultimately decided to conduct a vote to decide whether to approve the application or not.

 However, the move was criticized by Huang. Huang previously accused the center of engaging in a form of ideological censorship.

 Asked to comment, OCAC Minister Chen yesterday said existing regulation has stipulated that the center is not to be used for electioneering or political purposes in its attempts to stay politically neutral.

 Most political figures who previously visited Washington, D.C. would normally avoid making a speech at the center and instead hold such activities in hotels or other public venues, he noted.

 Meanwhile, the center's decision has drawn anger from the overseas Taiwanese community. Some even threatened to stage a protest to voice their anger over the center's rejection of Huang's speech, according to local media reports.

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