New govt drops KMT's education syllabus

TAIPEI • Taiwan's new government has repealed controversial changes to the high school curriculum that led to widespread protests last year over what critics said was "China-centric" education.

The order to overturn the changes comes less than two weeks after the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was sworn in, replacing the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) government.

Former president Ma Ying-jeou oversaw an unprecedented rapprochement with Beijing while new President Tsai Ing-wen has said she will maintain the "status quo" with China.

Ties have rapidly cooled since she won the presidency in January vowing to restore Taiwanese pride.

Education Ministry officials said that the decision on the curriculum, made late on Tuesday, had been taken in response to public sentiment.

Earlier on Tuesday, Premier Lin Chuan was unable to deliver his first policy report in Parliament since taking office because of a filibuster by legislators from the opposition KMT - using a life-size pig effigy presented by protesters.

Hundreds of Taiwanese pig farmers clashed with police outside Parliament on Tuesday, protesting against any move to allow the import of US pork containing an additive which they say is dangerous.

The protest came after Mr Tsao Chi-hung suggested before taking office as Agriculture Minister that the DPP government could lift the longstanding ban on imports of American pork containing traces of a feed additive called ractopamine.

Under Taiwan's current policy, imports of US pork must be free of the drug. The United States has long demanded that the ban be lifted if Taiwan is to be part of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Ractopamine is used to promote leanness in animals raised for meat.

The KMT and DPP have clashed over several issues since Ms Tsai took office on May 20.

Deputy Education Minister Lin Teng-chiao told AFP yesterday the panel that had made the original changes was "not representative" of the island and the procedure was "not proper".

The protests over the curriculum came as concerns grew, especially among the young, over increased Chinese influence.

Last July, dozens of angry students broke into the Education Ministry in central Taipei over amendments to the curriculum brought in by the KMT, which they said favoured China's view of the island's history.

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

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

Arrests of the students sparked demonstrations across the island, stoked by the suicide of one young activist.

At least 100 protesters camped out at the ministry for six days.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'New govt drops KMT's education syllabus'. Print Edition | Subscribe