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DPP urges MOE to drop charges against student protesters

2015/07/26 20:05:44

Police-activist standoff in an anti-curriculum guidelines protect in Taipei July 24

Taipei, July 26 (CNA) Opposition Democratic Progressive Party's spokesman Huang Ti-ying (黃帝潁) called on the Ministry of Education (MOE) Sunday to drop the charges against a group of students who broke into MOE buildings last week in protest against what they called a "unilateral" decision to modify high school history textbook guidelines.

Instead of "painfully prosecuting" the students, Education Minister Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) should learn from the Legislative Yuan and "rationally withdraw" the charges, Huang said in a statement.

Huang was referring to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's (王金平) decision not to press charges against students and activists who occupied the Legislature's main hall for 24 days in March and April last year in protest against the ruling party's attempt to push through a bill on a trade-in-services pact with China.

If Wu decides not to press the charges against the 24 students, who were detained Thursday on charges of intrusion and damage to property, the case will not enter the investigative and hearing process, the DPP spokesman said, citing two articles in the Criminal Code regarding those two offenses.

If Wu does not heed the DPP's advice, he will create a bad name for himself as the education minister who sued students and stood on the wrong side of democracy, Huang said.

Meanwhile, Lin Te-fu (林德福), deputy secretary general of the ruling KMT's legislative caucus, accused the DPP of giving material support to the student protesters and vowed to stand behind Wu in his decision to press charges.

At a press conference Saturday, Lin displayed two invoices that showed the DPP gave money to student protesters to buy umbrellas at a 7-Eleven convenience store.

"We strongly suspect that the DPP is the mastermind behind the protesting students' lawbreaking activities," Lin said. Citing an online survey, he said 90 percent of netizens support Wu's move to file lawsuits against the protesters, while only 10 percent are opposed to such a move.

In response, DPP Legislator Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said the allegation that the DPP was behind the students' actions was unfounded.

It is highly unlikely that a political party would be manipulating students on more than 300 campuses across the country, where campaigns have been launched against the changes to the curriculum, he said.

"It's time that the ruling party stopped its smearing tactics -- it's just an old trick of trying to distract attention from the issues," Cheng said.

An MOE official said Friday that Wu was insistent on bringing legal action against the students mainly because of an increased breakdown of order.

"The Education Ministry has tried to be lenient with the students despite their three serious offenses over the past month," said Yu Chien-kuo (于建國), head of the MOE's Department of Civil Service Ethics.

According to Yu, on the night of June 24, a group of students climbed the wall of the MOE compound and tossed bags of paint into the square.

This was followed by a protest July 13 in front of the K-12 Education and Administration building, where the students damaged the iron gate and staged a sit-in at the door of the director's office on the fifth floor, Yu said.

On the night of July 17, the protesters again scaled the wall and splattered paint all over, he added.

"The MOE did not press charges against the students for those three breaches of civil order, taking into account the fact that they are students," Yu said. "But it is beyond our imagination that our lenience has simply caused them to continue the disorderly behavior."

On Friday, police detained 24 students and 33 other people, including three reporters and six members of the public, after they entered the MOE building. Nine of the 24 students were from middle schools and 15 from colleges.

Vice Education Minister Chen Te-hua (陳德華) said Sunday the MOE's decision to prosecute the law-breaking students remained unchanged, but he called on school administrators not to discipline those involved in the protests.

As to the three journalists who had been released without bail, Chen said the MOE will drop the charges against them if they could prove that they were doing their job as reporters and not leading or participating in the protest.

Protesters have taken to the streets in recent weeks to oppose changes to the high school history curriculum guidelines, which according to the demonstrators, "are presented from the perspective of Chinese unification."

The Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance (北區高校反課綱聯盟) has criticized the MOE, saying that many of the changes to the textbook guidelines were unnecessary and hastily done.

The opponents have also accused the MOE of refusing to publish the names of members of a review committee that was responsible for changing the guidelines.

The controversial modifications include "Taiwan's retrocession" -- a term that opponents said is tinged with value judgment. The original term, "taking over Taiwan," should be retained, they argued.

Other controversial changes include a phrase describing Japan's 1895-1945 rule of Taiwan as "colonial" rule rather than simply "Japanese rule" and another describing the victims of Japanese sex slavery during World War II as people "forced into that trade" instead of who "served as comfort women."

(By Wen Kui-hsiang, Hsu Chih-wei, Lu Hsin-hui and S.C. Chang)