Hundreds of Taiwan students stormed the ministry of education compound early on Friday, after one committed suicide earlier in the week, intensifying anti-China protests over textbooks they say are aimed at promoting Beijing’s “one-China” policy, Reuters reports.
About 700 students climbed barricades around the ministry and as of Friday morning about 200 students were encamped inside the ministry compound, demanding an audience with the island’s education minister, police said.
“We have received orders not to remove the students,” a police spokesman said.
Over the past several months, young activists have taken to the streets en masse, scuffling with police and forcing their way into government offices, in protest against the government’s pro-Beijing stance.
The protests reflect a surge of nationalism among Taiwan’s youth, who are far more likely than their elders to identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.
The Sunflower Movement protest seems likely to determine the outcome of January’s presidential election by voting in a president from a independence-leaning party, something Communist Party rulers across the narrow Taiwan Strait will never allow.
The latest protest started in front of the education ministry compound building late Thursday in response to the suicide of 20-year-old Lin Kuan-hua in his New Taipei City home Thursday morning, AFP reports.
Lin was reportedly one of 30 students, along with three journalists, who were arrested last week for breaking into the ministry in anger at controversial changes to the high school curriculum, which students say favour China’s view of the island’s history.
“We will not let Lin Kuan-hua die in vain!” Chu Chen, a spokesman for the student protest group, told the growing crowd, as chants calling for Education Minister Wu Se-hwa to step down rang out.
Lin, who dropped out of vocational school in June, was reportedly facing charges of breaching government premises and causing damage after last week’s break-in.
“Relatives have expressed that Lin was in a bad mood last night after returning home from a meeting about the education ministry curriculum change,” a statement from the education ministry said.
Lin’s mother asked for other protesters not to follow his example.
“I hope all the children involved with the curriculum discussion will express their opinion in an appropriate channel,” she said, sobbing, in a recording played to reporters at a press conference held by the ministry.
“I don’t want to see another incident happening like Kuan-hua,” she said without explaining why Lin took his life or whether he left a suicide note, describing him as “a happy angel”.