Taiwan student protest over ‘one-China view’ splits island

By Yuen Yeuk-laam Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-3 0:33:01

Protesters storm govt over new curriculum guidelines

Protests by Taiwan students against changes to high school textbooks intensified Sunday, with analysts believing that the protest, supported by "Taiwan independence" radical groups, is further splitting Taiwan's political demographics.

The changes, which took effect on Saturday, have provoked criticism from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and some high school students for its "one-China view."

Hundreds of students remained in a sit-in outside the education authority compound in Taipei Sunday. The protests started early Friday morning after a student demonstrator died by suicide on Thursday. Students climbed barricades and around 200 were encamped inside, and police were deployed. One 20-year-old was charged with breaking into the compound.

Protesters called on more people to join their demonstration on Sunday afternoon. They shouted slogans demanding the government to withdraw the new curriculum guidelines and the region's education chief, Wu Se-hwa, to step down.

Scuffles broke out Sunday when curriculum supporters went to the scene to persuade the protesters to leave.

Wu had met with protesters on Friday afternoon, but both sides failed to reach an agreement. Taiwan's education authorities announced Sunday that Wu will hold a second meeting with student representatives at 2 pm Monday at a library in central Taipei.

Wang Chun-chuan, chief secretary of the education authority, said there are no limits to the number of student representatives and media is welcome to attend the meeting, which will be broadcast live.

Accord with history

The new curriculum guidelines were launched officially Saturday. It made slight amendments to the old curriculum guidelines, including changing "China" to "Chinese mainland," from "Japan-ruled period" to "Japanese colonial period" and adding the word "forced" when describing "comfort women."

Former Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Chiu Yi said that the opposition and protesters oppose the new curriculum because the wordings it used implied that Taiwan is part of China and Taiwan people are Chinese. He told the Global Times Sunday that the changes in fact accord with history and are in line with universal values.

Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the DPP, said on Sunday that she hoped the new curriculum would be suspended and the legislature would hold an emergency meeting to discuss it, but added that she has no plans to visit the student protesters.

Tactics for election

Analysts said some political groups are trying to use the students as a political means to spread the idea of "Taiwan independence" and divide Taiwan.

"The protest is an excuse for the DPP to attract votes for the upcoming 2016 'presidential' election, the same tactics the DPP used last year," Chiu said.

He claimed that the DPP is partly funding the protest, such as paying travel fees for students from far-flung places.

Yang Lixian, a researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also told the Global Times the protesters, who are mainly high school students, are still too young to identify historic facts, and that many of them are influenced by the old curriculum that was suggested by former DPP leaders Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, attempting to "brainwash" students with the idea of "Taiwan independence."

Protesters earlier described the changes to the high school curriculum as a "black box" operation as it did not go through the legislature, but was an administrative procedure.

Chiu said that this is because education authorities are responsible for this, rather than the legislature. 

"It would be ridiculous to put such a matter to the legislature," he said.  

In March 2014, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Taipei against a cross-Straits service trade agreement with the Chinese mainland, paralyzing Taiwan's legislative authority for 24 days. More than 110,000 people, mostly university students, took part.

Chiu said that since last year's large-scale protests, Taiwan has become more politicized as the DPP grows comfortable in using students as a political means to fight against the ruling government.

He added that Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou must not give in this time as doing so would imply that he and his party support the idea of "Taiwan Independence," which would indirectly shake KMT supporters' confidence

"Ma has to prove that he is capable of tackling emergency situations in order to win support from the party and the public, especially this time," he noted.

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