Student protesters arrested in Taiwan for breaking into education ministry

Demonstrators say changes to high school curriculum undermine the island's sovereignty

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 July, 2015, 9:44am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 July, 2015, 4:20pm

Police arrested 30 student protesters in Taiwan early on Friday after they broke in to the education ministry in the capital Taipei overnight protesting against “China-centric” changes to the school curriculum.

Increasing fears in Taiwan over Beijing’s influence sparked a three-week occupation of parliament last year by student-led protesters opposing a trade pact with mainland China.

“Thirty people were arrested and are being questioned on charges of breaching the government office and causing damage by breaking down the door,” a police spokesman said.

The protests came after the failure of talks on Thursday evening with an education official over the proposed changes to the curriculum, due to be introduced in September.

Formosa TV reported that 40 protesters had broken in to the building using ladders, with some of them locking themselves into the education minister’s office.

Television footage showed some of those arrested had their arms tied behind their backs with plastic fastenings.

About 200 protesters had also gathered outside the ministry earlier in the week to protest against the new curriculum.

The students say changes to the high school curriculum undermine the island’s sovereignty and have been introduced without proper consultation.

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

Relations have improved under current president Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party, leading to a number of trade deals but triggering growing public unease.

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

The 50-year period of Japanese rule is also referred to as an era when “Japan occupied” the island, replacing the previous phrase “Japan governed”.