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Students Protest at Taiwan Education Ministry

Student protesters against changes to their curriculum occupy the area inside the gates of the Ministry of Education in Taipei, Taiwan, Friday, July 31, 2015.

Dozens of students launched a sit-in Friday at Taiwan's Education Ministry demanding that officials take responsibility for a student leader who killed himself in an apparent protest over curriculum changes that critics say overemphasize China's ties to the island.

The students jumped a security gate overnight and set up tents and stools near the building's main entrance on Friday, holding placards demanding the resignation of the education minister while dozens of police blocked the entrance.

High school students around Taiwan have been staging several small demonstrations against the school curriculum changes for weeks. They say it emphasizes China's historic rule over the island, and that it also favors Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party, playing down its decades-long dictatorial rule.

“This curriculum is biased,” student protester Peng Cheng said. “The problem is that Taiwan actually is an island with multiple cultural influences. If you look back on Taiwan's history, we have influences from the Spanish, the Dutch, the Japanese, the Chinese, as well as the aboriginal peoples, and even the Americans.”

“So we cannot accept the textbook guideline that is so Chinese-cultural-centric,” he said.

A group of students broke into the education minister's office last week in protest, and 33 were arrested. Twenty-four of them were facing charges, including student leader Lin Kuan-hua, 20, who police say took his life on Thursday by burning fuel in his room.

Lin “expressed his wish for the ministry to withdraw its new guidelines before his death,” Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.