Protesting students in Taiwan vow to stay despite typhoon

PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Deputy Education Minister Lin Teng-chiao announced yesterday that the government had prepared members for a curriculum supervisory panel while inviting participation from student representatives. Students protesting in front of the Ministry of Education (MOE) vowed to continue their occupation of the entrance to the compound, despite the imminent approach of Typhoon Soudelor.

Speaking of the newly formed panel, Lin said that students would be able to participate in meetings and have voting rights, but said that the number of representatives allocated would be limited due to the number of panelists reserved for non-educators. The students will also have the power to nominate experts to be a part of the panel. The first meeting is scheduled to be held in late August.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Wu Se-hua announced that the social studies portion of the 12-year compulsory education basic curriculum guidelines would be temporarily postponed. Wu announced the decision during a discussion with students in Taichung, saying that the government would seek to open a dialogue to avoid social confrontation ahead of the curriculum's scheduled implementation in 2018.

Pressure mounting on the students to conclude their demonstration is not only due to both ruling and opposition parties agreeing to compromise on holding an extra legislative session to address the issue, but the impending arrival of Typhoon Soudelor, which may make landfall in Northern Taiwan toward the end of the week. The MOE's decision to allow both current and pre-2015 curriculum guidelines to be made available for textbook publishers is also seen as a compromise on the issue, giving schools the ultimate decision on which textbooks they will eventually use.

Students, who have vowed to remain in front of the MOE entrance despite the impending wind and rain, are dissatisfied with lawmakers from both the Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) due to a lack of details regarding how the review and monitoring procedure will take place. They reiterated their stance that the new guidelines be retracted and Education Minister Wu apologise and step down for the incident, threatening also to move protests to KMT headquarters or the Legislative Yuan if they saw fit. Some students said they would alternate shifts to maintaining their occupation of the ministry's entrance.

Any indications of a resolution to the protests were not immediately evident as police increased their security presence around the MOE to 400 officers, as anti-protest demonstrators led by China Unification Promotion Party leader Chang An-lo, also known as the "White Wolf" led supporters toward the camped out students. DPP Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-chien appeared to support students and shouted "over my dead body" toward Chang, who planned to "convince" protesters to go home.

Earlier in the day, Chang lead party members, decked out in Imperial Japanese Army uniforms, to DPP headquarters to protest "the poisoning of youth through education" by "charming up" Japan's role in Taiwan's history.