Wu playing divide & conquer: students
Minister’s offer to drop charges is subversive, claim protesters
Students occupying the Education Ministry yesterday rejected Education Minister Wu Se-hwa’s offer of a conditional solution to the criminal charges against some of them, saying it is an attempt to divide the protesters.
Tensions eased a bit as police removed barbed-wire barricades from the ministry headquarters as the occupation entered its second day, following an agreement between both sides to prevent violent clashes.
But more than 100 students and their supporters continued to stage a sit-down protest in the square in front of the ministry’s main building, demanding that Wu step down, retract the controversial revisions to the high school history curriculum guidelines and drop charges against the students arrested on July 23.
The protesters remained skeptical about Wu’s sincerity despite his latest claims that it has been his ministry’s goal to not pursue charges against the arrested students.
But he qualified his remarks by saying that the ministry would be ready to drop charges against students under 18 years of age, and for students who are 18 years and older, provided they admitted they had “misbehaved.”
“This is the education minister’s usual trick to divide us,” said Liao Chung-lun, one of the student protesters, in reference to Wu’s offer. “We will not accept it and will continue to show solidarity.”
The Education Ministry is trying to make those under 18 give up the protest, Liao claimed.
In response to rumors that pro-government gangsters might show up to confront them, Liao said the students hope the protest site can remain a place for rational communication.
He called on all protesters to remain calm and peaceful if they are provoked.
Liao also dismissed reports that they were mounting a campaign calling for nationwide protests by students against the revised curriculum guidelines. He stressed that the ministry headquarters remain the major “battlefield.”
Wu, who had had a brief and inconclusive meeting with student leaders Friday, said he would continue to seek communication with the protesters.
He said removing the barricades from the protest site was a demonstration of the Education Ministry’s “sincerity” in seeking communication. He also urged students to pay attention to their own safety.
The police precinct chief handling the protest situation said the barricades were meant for “defensive” use, but they were no longer needed now.
The Education Ministry has shown signs of backing down after a student leader committed suicide Thursday in protest of the revised guidelines.
Leading lawmakers have also begun discussions on whether an extraordinary session should be called to help bring an end to the protests.
The student protesters have already mounted a campaign to urge candidates in the upcoming legislative elections to support having the revised guidelines retracted if they are elected.
The students said they have managed to come into contact with 147 of the 190 candidates that have declared their bids, and 96 hopefuls, or 65 percent, have signed up to support their cause, 31 percent declined to state their positions and only 4 percent refused to support them.
Most of the supporting candidates are from the Democratic Progressive Party and other opposition parties. Incumbent Legislator Yang Chiung-ying, running for re-election, is the only candidate from the ruling Kuomintang to have pledged support, the students said.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry’s website crashed after being hacked. A group calling itself the “Anonymous Asia” claimed it was behind the attack in support of the students, saying it was just the beginning.
The ministry’s website crashed in the morning but could be accessed late in the afternoon.
A protester takes a rest in the parking lot of the Ministry of Education in Taipei, yesterday. Protesters continue to gather outside the Education Ministry, calling for the cancellation of the newly enforced high school history curriculum guidelines and the resignation of Education Minister Wu Se-hwa.