Sat, Aug 01, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Wu, students end talks on sour note

‘WU, GO TO HELL’:Officials initially told protesters Wu did not have time to meet them. When he did appear, he would not say if he would withdraw the guidelines

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

A student leader, front center, declares the breakdown of negotiations with Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa, center back, yesterday in Taipei.

Photo: CNA

Talks between student activists and Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) broke down yesterday, after Wu refused to agree to withdraw controversial adjustments to high-school curriculum guidelines and step down.

“We never would have guessed that there would be a minister of education who cannot even answer an elementary true-or-false question,” student leader Liao Chung-lun (廖崇倫) of Taichung First Senior High School said. “He isn’t able to tell us whether curriculum guidelines will be withdrawn — he is only able to thank us for our opinions, a phrase we are fed up with hearing.”

The “fine-tuned” guidelines’ allegedly “China-centric” focus has sparked waves of student protests.

Wu appeared at the Ministry of Education building’s entrance early in the afternoon, advancing through ranks of police officers. He called for a moment of silence for student activist Dai Lin (林冠華) before falling back behind police officers to address the crowd gathered in the ministry’s outer courtyard.

Lin’s suicide on Thursday was the catalyst behind the latest wave of protests, which led to the courtyard’s occupation during the middle of the following night.

Wu yesterday said that drafting curriculum guidelines was a question that required “expertise,” urging students to hold further talks with the ministry.

“Curriculum guidelines are the future of students and young people — let us do something that we will not regret in 20 years,” he said, adding that only through dialogue could societal “harmony” and “peace” be achieved.

Wu’s comments were repeatedly interrupted with shouts of “withdraw or not,” with members of the crowd raising fists and fingers at Wu, demanding that he limit his remarks to the question of whether the curriculum guidelines would be withdrawn.

“Many societal questions cannot be answered with just checks-and-crosses,” Wu said. “Curriculum guidelines are one of those questions that are not black-and-white.”

Liao declared that negotiations had broken down because Wu had failed to agree to withdraw the guidelines, with the crowd erupting in chants for the minister to “leave” and “resign.”

Yesterday’s confrontation represented the first formal discussions between Wu and the student activists since a ministry-sponsored forum last month.

Activists’ confrontation of Wu during a forum on the guidelines led to the delay of further forums until the past two weeks, while ministry officials insisted that Wu would meet only with student representatives.

Deputy Minister of Education Lucia Lin (林思伶) and Ministry of Education Secretary-General Wang Chun-chuan (王俊權) had addressed students in the morning prior to Wu’s afternoon appearance, telling students to select representatives to meet with ministry officials to set up a later meeting with Wu, whose schedule they said prevented him from addressing the students.

They were quickly shouted down by the crowd, who demanded that Wu “come out and face the music,” rejecting the ministry’s offer of a private meeting as “a pat on the head.”

Yesterday’s confrontation came after student activists occupied the outer courtyard of the ministry early in the morning, after Wu failed to resign following Lin’s suicide.

A student-led crowd pushed down the iron barricades around the ministry, using quilts and cardboard boxes to cover the razor wire and climb into the complex.

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