Masses of Taiwanese students are protesting revisions to history textbooks, which they say attempt to promote “one China”. The students say these new textbooks, on the way to high schools for the new semester beginning in September, over-emphasise the role of China in Taiwan’s history. They are demanding a repeal of the new curriculum and the resignation of the minister of education Wu Se-hwa. The revised guidelines mean that “minor changes” will be made to textbooks for geography, civil education, Chinese literature and history.
Amidst the controversy, the leader of the protests, 20-year old Lin Kuan hua, took his own life on his birthday last Thursday by burning charcoal. He left no note, but wrote on his Facebook page, “I have only one wish: Minister, please withdraw the textbook guidelines.” Lin Yi-hua, spokeswoman of the KMT, expressed the party’s sorrow over the tragedy, but rejected blame by stating, “political agendas of some parties had prevented rational discussions of the issue.”
The students may have packed up and taken shelter at home in wake of Typhoon Soudelor, but that’s not to say that they’ve given up yet. The Taiwanese Ministry of Education says the new textbooks have already been printed, so what’s the point protesting anymore? Replies from Taiwanese Independence party governors in southern cities say it will only cost twice as much now they have to reprint the old textbooks. The KMT (blue party) have fallen out of favour in Taiwan over the past two years, and the DDP (green party) are favoured to rise into power after the presidential elections in 2016. Liberty Times, a pro-DDP media agency from Taiwan, reports the KMT has no intention of changing their view of history in light of the student protests.
It’s not just the DDP that are promising to revert to the old curriculum if elected next year, there is also James Soong (past secretary to Premier Chiang Ching-kuo) who runs in the presidential elections regularly, though never quite makes the grain.
Many are seeing the protests as an opportunity to gain popularity running up to the elections. Some blame opposition parties for encouraging the protests, spurring the tragedy of Lin’s suicide, and the 33 arrests that resulted from protestors illegally entering the ministry of education.
By Daniel Cunningham