Dozens of students stormed the Education Ministry of Taiwan on Friday as protesters called for officials to assume responsibility for a student leader who allegedly committed suicide after being arrested by the police.
The protesters also demanded the resignation of Education Minister Wu Se-hwa and the retraction of textbook changes that its critics say exaggerate Taiwan’s favorable ties with China.
The protesters gathered around the Ministry compound in Taipei and tension escalated as their demands remained unanswered. About 200 students broke down fences and took over the square of the Ministry’s building. Police with riot shields were necessary to prevent the students from entering the building.
High schools students across Taiwan have been staging small demonstrations against the textbook changes for weeks now.
20-year-old Lin Kuan-hua killed himself in his home last week after having been arrested previously, along with 29 other students and three journalists, for breaking into the Ministry, to protest against the highly controversial China-centric curriculum changes.
According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Lin “expressed his wish for the ministry to withdraw its new guidelines before his death.”
The protesters claim these textbook changes favor China’s viewpoint on the country’s history and Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party. The textbooks seek to soften the appearance of the party’s long-spanning dictatorial rule, the Daily Mail notes.
Hundreds of students bid farewell to Lin Kuan-hua on Friday: “We will not let Lin Kuan-hua die in vain!” Chu Chen, a spokesman for the student protest group, said addressing the crowd. The Education Ministry was forced to make a statement following the death of Lin Kuan-hua:
“Relatives have expressed that Lin was in a bad mood last night after returning home from a meeting about the education ministry curriculum change,” the statement said.
His mourning mother said:
“I hope all the children involved with the curriculum discussion will express their opinion in an appropriate channel. I don’t want to see another incident happening like Kuan-hua.”
Education Minister Wu Se-hwa of the Beijing-friendly ruling party told reporters when visiting the family of Kuan-hua:
“We really regret this incident and that we couldn’t stop this from happening. This dispute has been going on for a while. It has something to do with the history and even the national identity (of Taiwan).”
According to New Vision, tensions are escalating amid fears that China is intensifying its influence over the self-governed island. Taiwan was split from mainland China in 1949, but Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and hasn’t completely dismissed the idea of using force to bring the territory under its control again.
The ruling KMT party and current president Ma Ying-jeou have signed several trade and economic agreements with China – something that has sparked public concerns over the intentions and implications of the cooperation.