TAIPEI: Taiwan has convicted five students who stormed the education ministry last year to protest a school curriculum seen as skewed towards Beijing.
The students were among a group of demonstrators angry over controversial curriculum changes that they said favored China’s view of the island’s history.
The new curriculum — introduced by the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang government which was then in power — sparked a string of protests and the suicide of a student activist, reflecting growing concerns over increased Chinese influence on Taiwan particularly among the young.
Taiwan is self-ruling since splitting from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war — but it has never formally declared independence and China still sees it as part of its territory.
Five students were indicted on obstruction of justice and coercion charges after they allegedly scuffled with security guards.
Four were given suspended sentences Thursday, in addition to 120 hours of community service. The 30- to 40-day sentences were suspended for two years.
The fifth student was also found guilty but received no sentence as he was less involved and had shown remorse, the court added.
One student said he would appeal.
“I didn’t push the security guards,” student Tsai Ming-ying told reporters, saying he would contest the “unacceptable” ruling.
A court statement said the students were given the suspended sentences due to their youth.
“They did not think things through enough,” it said, adding that the victims were willing to forgive them.
Taiwan’s new Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government repealed the curriculum changes less than two weeks after it took office in May.
It also dropped a lawsuit against activists of the “Sunflower Movement,” who stormed the cabinet headquarters to protest a China trade pact in 2014.
The education ministry dropped trespassing charges against the five convicted students as well as other protesters but legally had to proceed with the more serious obstruction of justice and coercion charges.
Ties with China have rapidly cooled since the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen won the presidency in January as Beijing deeply mistrusts her traditionally pro-independence party.