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Minister calls for rational discussion on curriculum guidelines

2015/07/31 16:37:14

Taipei, July 31 (CNA) Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) said Friday that the controversial issue of guidelines for the senior high school history curriculum is not a "yes" or "no" question, and expressed his wish for rational talks with students protesting the ministry's move.

Wu showed up to meet activists -- mostly students -- in a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Education (MOE) building that began the previous evening in an increasingly intense protest against the revisions to the guidelines.

Surrounded by emotional protesters calling for Wu to step down, the minister told them that "there are many issues in society, like the one concerning the curriculum guidelines, that are not as simple as black and white."

"If we could, all of us could sit down and talk about the curriculum guidelines rationally to find an answer everyone accepts," Wu said.

Wu's words, however, were constantly interrupted by angry protesters' demands for his resignation.

"If you want me to step down immediately, then the following dialogues will be meaningless," Wu protested. "How am I going to handle the aftermath if I leave?"

The minister stressed that he will shoulder full responsibility for the incident. "But before handling my political responsibility, I hope we can sit down rationally and discuss the curriculum guidelines dispute," he said.

His remarks, however, were not regarded by the protesting students as a response to their calls, who then announced that "the negotiations have failed."

[Outside the Ministry of Education, Friday morning. CNA photo July 31, 2015]

Hundreds of protesters broke through a police barricade in front of the MOE compound in downtown Taipei at around midnight Thursday and occupied the forecourt. They demanded that the education minister withdraw the guidelines, which they describe as having undergone "China-centric" revisions in a process that was not transparent.

The protesters also demanded Wu's resignation and an end to legal proceedings against those accused of breaking into the MOE building and vandalism last week in a series of anti-curriculum guideline protests.

Following the MOE's decision to take legal action against 33 protesters arrested for the break-in July 23 -- including 24 students -- one of the student protesters involved, Lin Kuan-hua (林冠華), committed suicide Thursday, which further aggravated the protesters' fury.

Protesters began assembling in front of the MOE that evening, shouting slogans and venting their frustration over the issue, while expressing their demand for Wu to respond.

At 1:30 a.m. Friday, the protesters began breaking the police barricades and scaling the walls to enter the forecourt of the MOE. With more and more people gathering, the number of protesters at the scene was at one point estimated at around 400.

The chief of the Taipei Police Zhongzheng First Precinct, Chang Chi-wen (張奇文), remained at the site, asking the protesters to "calm down and behave." In addition, the police also warned the protesters every 15 minutes since 4 a.m. that their assembly was illegal, but were ignored.

(By Tung Ning, Ken Chao, Jay Chen and Elizabeth Hsu)

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