KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) yesterday was told that if he was so concerned about the rise in university tuition fees he ought to donate NT$10 billion of his party's vast wealth to a fund for poor students.
Lien originally intended to visit the Joy to Learn Education Reform Association (快樂學習教改聯盟), which is opposed to the rise in tuition fees, at its headquarters on Roosevelt Road in downtown Taipei.
He was, however, forcibly stopped outside the building by another group of protesters which demanded the KMT donation.
The group, which the KMT later dismissed as manipulated by "a certain political party" demanded that Lien reply on the spot to their demand.
The group blocked the entrance to the building, forcing Lien away from the entrance.
Eventually Lien left the site by car without visiting Joy to Learn.
Engaging in a face-to-face confrontation with the protesters, Lien said "I didn't oppose any of their appeals. I just wanted to sit down and listen to what the problems are so as to make the KMT presidential campaign's education white paper a comprehensive one."
Yu Yung-chih (游湧志), one of the organizers of the protest, said "Lien Chan cannot dodge his responsibility for the current high-college tuition situation."
The two education reform groups staged a protest in front of the Presidential Office on Wednesday to make several appeals about reform of the education system.
The education authority has initiated a series of reform measures over the past decade in a bid to liberalize the rigid education system.
"Lien just wanted to use this opportunity to show his concern for education reform by cooperating with education activists. But the KMT can't even propose a well-thought-out plan on how to reduce the current high tuition costs, for example," Yu said.
KMT spokeswoman Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) accused the protesters of being tools of "some political party," alluding to the DPP.
"We were astonished to see some familiar faces among these protesters, who appear frequently in all kinds of protest events. They were neither educational-reform supporters nor the people inviting us. They were simply manipulated by a certain party," Su said.
Lien later returned to KMT headquarters and spoke to reporters.
He had wished, he said, to talk with activists fighting on the front-line about the problems in the education system.
"I have taken note of their appeal and I hoped to speak with them about it. While the KMT is drafting our education white paper, we think we should listen to all opinions from different areas of society. We cannot do it alone. But those who arranged this protest spoiled this chance. I had to leave the site to avoid further clashes," Lien said.
President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) defense of the current tuition fees levels, which many deem too high, has made the issue a political hot potato in the runup to next year's presidential election.
Chen had stated several times that tuition fees are reasonable compared to other developed nations such as the US and Japan.
Trying to appease the furor of the protests, Chen made clarifications in his weekly public electronic letter "A-bian Talk," noting that his administration has managed to reduce the interest on loans for educational purposes from the 6.25 percent,imposed by the KMT, to the current 2.92 percent and said he believed the government, universities and the private sector should all be responsible for sponsoring the tuition of the nation's students.