Student protester suicide deepens political row in Taiwan

Student protester suicide deepens political row in Taiwan
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.
PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI - A student protester who was reportedly among 33 arrested after breaking into the education ministry last week committed suicide Thursday as the row over the island's "China-centric" school curriculum deepened.

Taiwan's education minister was forced to make a statement in the wake of the death of Lin Kuan-hua, 20, as opposition parties rounded on the government for its controversial changes to the high school curriculum, which students say favour China's view of the island's history.

Police said Lin committed suicide in his New Taipei City home this morning.

"Relatives have expressed that Lin was in a bad mood last night after returning home from a meeting about the education ministry curriculum change," a statement from the ministry said.

Last week 30 protesters who broke into the ministry in the capital Taipei to protest the curriculum changes were arrested. Three journalists were also detained.

Local media reported that Lin, who dropped out of vocational school in June, had been among them.

All face charges of breaching government premises and causing damage.

Lin's mother asked for other protesters not to follow his example.

"I hope all the children involved with the curriculum discussion will express their opinion in an appropriate channel. I don't want to see another incident happening like Kuan-hua," she said, sobbing, in a recording played to reporters at a press conference held by the ministry.

She did not give any clue why Lin had taken his own life, or whether he left a suicide note.

"He has become a happy angel - let him live on in our memories," she said.

Education Minister Wu Se-hwa of the ruling Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party (KMT) visited Lin's family Thursday.

"We really regret this incident and that we couldn't stop this from happening," Wu told reporters.

"This dispute has been going on for a while. It has something to do with the history and even the national identity (of Taiwan)." The student protests come at a time when tensions are running high over fears that China is exerting greater influence over Taiwan.

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

The KMT has forged a rapprochement with Beijing since current president Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008, sparking public concern over closer ties.

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) accused the KMT of being "cold blooded" and said the party had tried to smear the student protest campaign.

It called for the government to rescind the curriculum changes.

Huang Kun-hui, chairman of the anti-China Taiwan Solidarity Union, said he was shocked and saddened by the death.

He demanded the education minister immediately drop charges against the students and step down to take responsibility.

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