Taiwan police arrest 30 students protesting against proposed curriculum changes

Taiwanese high school students display placards against the revision of history text books during a demonstration in front of the education ministry in Taipei on July 22, 2015.
Taiwanese high school students display placards against the revision of history text books during a demonstration in front of the education ministry in Taipei on July 22, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - Police arrested 30 student protesters in Taiwan early Friday after they broke into the Education Ministry in the capital Taipei overnight, protesting against “China-centric” changes to the school curriculum.

Thirty people were arrested and are being questioned on charges of breaching the government office and causing damage by breaking down the door, a police spokesman said.

The protests came after the failure of talks on Thursday evening with an education official over the proposed changes to the curriculum, due to be introduced in September.

Formosa TV reported that 40 protesters had broken in to the building using ladders, with some of them locking themselves in to the education minister's office.

Television footage showed some of those arrested had their arms tied behind their backs with plastic fastenings.

Around 200 protesters had gathered outside the ministry earlier in the week to protest against the new curriculum.

Curriculum changes disputed by protesters include a reference to Taiwan being "recovered by China" instead of "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 previous phrase "Japan governed".

The students say changes to the high school curriculum undermine the island's sovereignty and have been introduced without proper consultation.

Taiwan split from China in 1949 after a civil war and is self-ruled, but Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification - by force if necessary.

Relations have improved under current president Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party, leading to a number of trade deals but triggering growing public unease.

Increasing fears in Taiwan over Beijing's influence sparked a three-week occupation of parliament last year by student-led protesters opposing a trade pact with China.

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