Charges will probably not be pressed against high-school students who entered the Ministry of Education building on Thursday last week, Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) said yesterday.
“For students who are still in high school, we hope not to press charges, while students older than 18 who are willing to acknowledge their actions were ‘disorderly’ will also be taken care of through through nonlegal means,” he said.
He said that not pressing charges was the ministry’s “objective,” but that the ministry hopes the public supports the idea that people should express their points of view only by “reasonable” means.
The ministry has ordered the removal of the barricades across the ministry’s main gate to demonstrate its willingness to communicate with students, he added.
Before yesterday morning protesters in the ministry courtyard had to snake through an extended path between razor wire obstacles to enter and exit the ministry gates.
Wu said that because textbooks for the upcoming year had already been selected by schools and published, it was already too late to withdraw the guidelines, adding that there was nothing wrong with their content or approval process.
Thirty-three people — including 24 students and three reporters — were arrested at about 1am on Thursday last week for entering the Ministry of Education complex. Among those arrested, 11 are minors.
The ministry had previously said it would press charges for trespassing and damage to public property against anyone actively involved in the incident.
In response to Wu’s statement, Taichung First Senior High School student activist Liao Chung-lun (廖崇倫) said pressing charges against any students would be irrational and unwise, adding that the ministry was attempting to divide students with its offer.
“We think it is strange the ministry would make a distinction between students above and below 18,” he said, calling on the ministry to drop charges rather than playing “word games.”
Wu’s statement that the ministry had not yet filed charges against the students was met with incredulity some of the protesters.
“If the ministry really hasn’t filed charges, why was I bound and sent to juvenile court,” National Chang-hua Senior High School student Hsiao Chu-chun (蕭竹均) said adding that police had told students they were arrested because the ministry had filed charges.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) called on Wu to explain the inconsistency.
“If the ministry had not insisted on pressing charges, why would the police have arrested the reporters and students?” he said.
According to Ministry of Education Secretary-General Wang Chun-chuan (王俊權), after the ministry reported the incident to the police, police officers treated the students according to their standard operating procedure for criminals caught “red-handed,” including taking down statements which would serve as the principal evidence if the ministry chose to press charges. The public prosecutor would halt the investigation process if the ministry chose not to press charges, he said.
In related news, service to the ministry’s Web site was interrupted repeatedly yesterday.
Lee Tsai-yan (李蔡彥) the head of the ministry’s technology department, said that an “abnormal volume” of requests interrupted service to the ministry’s Web site throughout Friday night. After service was restored early yesterday morning, a second wave of attacks cut off service yesterday afternoon, he said. The Web site remained unavailable into the evening.