Protest over 'pro-China' changes: 33 arrested

Student protesters scuffling with police inside Taiwan's Education Ministry yesterday. The students, together with three journalists, are being held for questioning on charges of breaching government premises and causing damage.
Student protesters scuffling with police inside Taiwan's Education Ministry yesterday. The students, together with three journalists, are being held for questioning on charges of breaching government premises and causing damage.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Taiwan police detain students, 3 reporters over demo in Education Ministry building

TAIPEI • Police have arrested 30 protesters in Taiwan, most of them students, after they broke into the Education Ministry in the capital Taipei overnight to oppose "China-centric" changes to the school curriculum.

Three journalists were also arrested, police said yesterday. All 33 of them are being questioned on charges of breaching government premises and causing damage.

Protesters used ladders to get into the building before barricading themselves in the education minister's office.

"They used ladders to breach the compound, damaged the door of the minister's office, and used chairs and other things to lock themselves in the room," said senior police officer Lee Chuan-che, who oversaw the arrests. "Police guarding the building tried to stop them from pushing their way in, but to no avail," he added.

Of those who were arrested, 24 were students and 11 of them were under 18, police said. However, they gave no details about why the reporters were detained as well.

Television footage showed that some of those who were arrested had their arms tied behind their backs with plastic restraints.

A group of students gathered outside the ministry yesterday morning to demand that the detained students be released. They also called for the resignation of the education minister as well as the retraction of the new curriculum.

Yesterday's protests came after talks with an education official over the proposed changes broke down on Thursday evening. The changes are due to be introduced across high schools in September.

Around 200 protesters had also rallied outside the ministry earlier in the week. The students say changes to the high school curriculum undermine the island's sovereignty and have been introduced without proper consultation.

Curriculum changes disputed by the protesters include a reference to Taiwan being "recovered by China" instead of being "given to China" after the end of Japanese occupation in 1945.

The 50-year period of Japanese rule is also referred to as an era when "Japan occupied" the island, replacing the original phrase that said "Japan governed" the island.

The demonstrations have echoes of a mass campaign in Hong Kong in 2012, which saw people in the tens of thousands take to the streets against a Bill to introduce mandatory Chinese patriotism classes in schools.

Rising fears in Taiwan over Beijing's influence sparked a three-week occupation of Parliament last year by student-led protesters, who were opposing a trade pact with China.

Taiwan split from China in 1949 after a civil war and is self-ruled but Beijing sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification - by force if necessary. Relations have improved under President Ma Ying-jeou - a member of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party - leading to a number of trade deals with China, but these have triggered growing public unease.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'Protest over 'pro-China' changes: 33 arrested'. Print Edition | Subscribe