TAIPEI: Police arrested 30 protesters in Taiwan early Friday, most of them students, after they broke into the education ministry in the capital Taipei overnight to oppose “China-centric” changes to the school curriculum.
Increasing fears in Taiwan over Beijing’s influence sparked a three-week occupation of parliament last year by student-led protesters opposing a trade pact with China.
Three journalists were also arrested, police said.
All 33 are being questioned on charges of breaching government premises and causing damage.
Protesters scaled ladders to get into the building before barricading themselves in the education minister’s office.
“They used ladders to breach the compound, damaged the door of the minister’s office, and used chairs and other things to lock themselves in the room,” said senior police officer Lee Chuan-che, who oversaw the arrests.
“Police guarding the building tried to stop them from pushing their way in, but to no avail.”
Of the protesters arrested 24 were students, 11 of them under 18, police said. They gave no further details about why the reporters had been detained.
Television footage showed some of those arrested had their arms tied behind their backs with plastic restraints.
A group of students gathered outside the ministry Friday morning to demand the release of their 24 peers.
They also called for the resignation of the education minister and the retraction of the new curriculum.
Friday’s protests came after talks broke down on Thursday evening with an education official over the proposed changes, which are due to be introduced across high schools in September.
Around 200 protesters had also rallied outside the ministry earlier in the week.
The students say changes to the high school curriculum undermine the island’s sovereignty and have been introduced without proper consultation.
Taiwan split from China in 1949 after a civil war and is self-ruled, but Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reuni-fication—by force if necessary.
Relations have improved under current president Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party, leading to a number of trade deals but triggering growing public unease.
Curriculum changes disputed by protesters include a reference to Taiwan being “recovered by China” instead of “given to China” after the end of Japanese occupation in 1945.
The 50-year period of Japanese rule is also referred to as an era when “Japan occupied” the island, replacing the previous phrase “Japan governed.”
The demonstrations have echoes of a mass campaign in semi-autonomous Hong Kong in 2012, which saw tens of thousands take to the streets against a bill to introduce mandatory Chinese patriotism classes into schools.