Taiwan students face charges over MOE raid

Taiwan students face charges over MOE raid
PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa said yesterday his office would seek charges against protesters who stormed and ransacked his office late Thursday evening in continued protests against the government's changes to high school curriculum guidelines. Meanwhile opposition-led local governments in 13 counties and cities demanded that the ministry immediately drop the changes to the curriculum.

In addition to seeking charges against the protesters, the Ministry of Education stated that it would prosecute reporters if there was evidence that they led the students in the storming of the office. Some reporters strongly rebuked the government and police for interfering with their attempts to cover the developing events.

In a press conference, Wu criticised the students for "setting a bad example" with their "illegal and disorderly" conduct and stated that it was "immoral" for certain social organisations and political parties to take a back seat in the debate while placing students at the frontlines of the curriculum dispute. Wu did not specifically name the organisations involved. He reiterated that the changes to the high school curriculum, which protesters see as "China-centric," would not be overturned.

A total of 33 people, which included students and reporters as well as members of the public, used ladders to scale the walls of the Ministry of Education and entered the minister's office. Eleven of the protesters were minors. They were arrested by police early Friday morning. Prosecutors later released the three reporters on bail of NT$10,000 (S$460) each, while the 11 minors were subsequently turned over to the custody of their guardians.

Meanwhile, supporters of the student protesters called for the immediate release of the remaining students, and for Wu to step down from his post. Members of the Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance stated that their actions followed "insincere" efforts by the Education Ministry to hold a dialogue on the changes.

Students involved in the break-in also rebutted claims that they had ransacked the minister's office, stating that police had battered through the minister's office entrance "within three seconds." The Social Democratic Party, in addition to demanding Wu's resignation, called for the immediate release of those arrested, the removal of the changes to curriculum, and an official apology from President Ma Ying-jeou.

Ko Blames Prosecutors

Addressing reporters over accusations of the wrongful arrest of three journalists at the scene, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je reversed his statement that police at the scene had no idea those in question were reporters. After reporters told Ko that police officers indeed knew the identity of journalists and had prevented them from communicating, the mayor changed his position, stating that prosecutors leading the response needed to take responsibility for following standard operating procedures.

DPP Accuses Gov't of Politicizing Issue

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman and 2016 presidential frontrunner Tsai Ing-wen shifted blame onto the government, countering that it was setting the "worst educational example for the next generation." In a post that was published on her official Facebook page, Tsai said it was the responsibility of adults to provide a "comprehensive and objective" educational environment and history curriculum. She said that government transparency missteps in making the alterations and its failure to communicate with students were the reasons behind the student protests, "forcing" them to take a more aggressive stance in voicing their demands.

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