Student activist facing prosecution commits suicide

Student activist facing prosecution commits suicide
Taiwan Education Minister Wu Se-hua (C) is surrounded by students after visiting suicide student Lin Kuan-hua's home in the New Taipei City on July 30, 2015. Lin, the spokesman of the anti-text books adjustment groups, killed himself at his home on July 30.
PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI, Taiwan - About 300 students of anti-curriculum guidelines revision groups scaled the fence of the Legislative Yuan yesterday and gathered at its front gate to protest the death of their member Lin Kuan-hua who committed suicide yesterday in New Taipei City.

Student activist Lin Kuan-hua, who was arrested last week for his role in a 33-person storming of the Ministry of Education (MOE), was found dead in his family residence after committing suicide yesterday in New Taipei. Lin, who would have marked his 20th birthday yesterday, was active in student protests against high school curriculum guideline changes which have stirred controversy over the island's history.

The cause of Lin's death was attributed to the burning of coal inside his room. Lin's parents said that their son's suicide had nothing to do with his activism against the curriculum guidelines, and that he had struggled with depression. Lin, who once attended Juang Jing Vocational High School had taken time off from his studies in June to participate in the student movement, serving as a spokesman representing Northern Taiwan high school students.

Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa, under pressure from opposition party leaders to show leniency against students involved in the protest, stated in an afternoon news conference that he was "willing to take full responsibility" on the matter. He was heckled by students as he made his way to pay respects to the Lin family, and said to reporters afterwards that his heart was "full of guilt." The minister added that since textbooks adhering to both the old and new guidelines are available for use, it implied that the old curriculum standards were still in effect.

"The MOE has never interfered with the decision of teachers on which textbooks to use," Wu said.

We Need Peace: Lin's Mother

Lin's mother said that the family had planned to celebrate their son's birthday yesterday. She thanked the support given by Juang Jing school officials, which had provided counseling to the younger Lin over issues relating to depression. She urged the public not to use the suicide of Lin Kuan-hua as a way to start "inappropriate discussions" and that his death is not linked to pressure from the school, teachers and other education authorities.

A transcript of Lin's exchanges with fellow students on the chat client Line indicated that the protest leader had planned the event for his birthday, in which he wrote: "there are some things one must do without saying what." He also added that he wanted to "ignite the media and commentary" on July 30.

Expedite Communication: President Ma

Responding to Lin's death yesterday, President Ma Ying-jeou said the incident had brought him "deep pain," as he urged the MOE to expedite an exchange of opinions with those protesting the curriculum guideline changes. He added that dialogue should take into consideration the nation's constitutional framework. The president also cancelled a planned appearance at a film screening of "Where the Wind Settles", highlighting the role of veterans set in postwar Taiwan.

Parties Trade Barbs on Responsibility

Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidates both voiced their regret over Lin's suicide yesterday. DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said that it was "disappointing" that the government was "still refusing to take a proactive response" regarding the situation. KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu urged politicians to exercise compassion and refrain from political manipulation which lead to "confusion" on the part of students.

While the DPP criticised the government and urged the reversal of the curriculum guidelines, it accused the KMT of using the tragedy for political gain. The KMT in a press release accused the DPP of "fanning flames" leading up to Lin's death.

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