Taiwan student protesters charged for storming Education Ministry over curriculum changes

Protesters watch the live broadcast of the meeting between Taiwan's Education Minister Wu Se-hwa and student representatives during a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Taipei, Taiwan, on Aug 3, 2015.
Protesters watch the live broadcast of the meeting between Taiwan's Education Minister Wu Se-hwa and student representatives during a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Taipei, Taiwan, on Aug 3, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan prosecutors have brought charges against five students who stormed the Education Ministry in July over changes to the school curriculum seen as pushing China's agenda of bringing the island under its territory.

The students were among a group of demonstrators who broke into the ministry in response to the controversial move that stirred fierce debates over Taiwan's history and tense relationship with China.

The five students are being charged for obstruction of justice and coercion, but prosecutors said on Wednesday (Oct 21) that given their youth, probation could be appropriate if a guilty verdict is handed down.

"The defendants are students, and may not have considered carefully (their actions) as they're still young," the Taipei District Prosecutors Office said in a statement.

Self-governing Taiwan split from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war, but Beijing wants to reunify with the island at some stage and has not ruled out force to achieve its aims.

Critics claimed the curriculum changes - including a disputed reference to Taiwan being "recovered by China" - espoused China's version of history and were introduced without proper consultation.

The protests came amid growing public concern about China's influence as cross-strait ties deepen under current President Ma Ying-jeou, who is seen as close to Beijing.

Charges against activist Lin Kuan-hua - whose suicide at the height of the protests saw the ministry occupied again for weeks - were dropped due to his death, prosecutors said.

Two others were referred to a juvenile court, while charges were dropped against 22 others also involved in the ministry break-in.