Members of a Chinese delegation at a Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) meeting in Boston who protested the listing of Taiwan as a “country” in the conference handbook were expelled from the event.
During the first HMUN meeting on January 29, members of the Chinese delegation saw that the conference handbook included Taiwan in its list of “international participants by country”, and demanded that the handbook be modified to read “country or region”, according to Deng Bingyu, a student from the Northwest Polytech University in Shaanxi, who posted a full account of the event to renren.com on February 2.
The dispute carried on until the next day of the event, and organizers eventually asked security to remove some of the members of the Chinese delegation, including Deng, because “your presence makes us uncomfortable,” organizers said. They also threatened to call police.
Ruth Kagen, the Secretary-General of HMUN2015, issued an email to the Chinese delegation on January 31 explaining that “The inclusion of Taiwan is not meant as a political statement, nor does that listing represent the views of the Harvard International Relations Council.” The conference handbook is copyright material and cannot be reproduced, she added.
On February 1, another event organizer sent out an email informing students of the Chinese delegation that they could pick up stickers that say “by country and region” to add to their own handbooks, although this response hadn’t satisfied the students.
Another student surnamed Zhang who attended HMUN in 2012 told the Global Times that organizers hadn’t listed Taiwan as a country back then, but other students who’d attended similar Model UN events said that Taiwan and sometimes Hong Kong were listed as “countries”.
“The organizer needs to apologize to Chinese participants,” Zhang said in the report.
J. Michael Cole, senior fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham in the UK, didn’t necessarily agree. “Beyond doubt the organizers of HMUN2015 acted sensibly in the situation. They refused to be pressured by hotheads, and they pushed back just enough to maintain their integrity,” he said in a post on the blog Thinking Taiwan, further asking “Now the real question is, what will the handbook say next year?”