Taipei mayor meets with student protesters, calls for self-restraint
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je went to the Ministry of Education (MOE) Friday to meet a crowd of activists — mostly high school and college students — who were staging a sit-in protest there against revised senior high school history curriculum guidelines.
The mayor brought with him cookies for the protesting students and the police maintaining order at the site, because, he said, eating sweets can induce a better mood. He called for the students to express their opinions in a rational and peaceful manner and to exercise self-restraint.
Ko also urged the protesters to refrain from causing trouble and putting pressure on the police, who he described as “the people’s nurses, not a national enemy.”
“After all, Taiwan society is civilized. The right to protest is a right of the people, but it should not be exercised too drastically,” Ko said.
He further said that he hopes the MOE can reach consensus with the students on the curriculum guideline issue as soon as possible, adding that he does not wish to see Taiwan fall into conflict between two extremes because of different ideologies.
Asked whether he would guarantee that the police will not take action to disperse the sit-in in front of the MOE building, the mayor promised no excessive use of force by the police, but asked the protesters to drastic behavior.
“As long as everyone stays calm, I promise there won’t be a dispersal action,” Ko said.
His remarks received a warm response from the protesters, some of whom shouted “thank you, mayor.”
A series of anti- curriculum guideline protests began last year after the MOE decided to “update” the history curriculum guidelines based on the Constitution and the act governing relations between the peoples on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
The revisions, however, were denounced by some history teachers and Taiwan independence advocates, who claim that the changes were made from “the perspective of Chinese unification” and in a process that was not transparent. The revised curriculum guidelines are scheduled to take effect Aug. 1.
To stop the textbook guidelines from being implemented, activists have been gathering at the MOE since Thursday, demanding the withdrawal of the controversial guidelines, that Education Minister Wu Se-hwa step down, and that the MOE drop charges against protesters arrested the previous week for breaking into the MOE building.
The police have warned the protesters that their assembly is illegal, but have been ignored.