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Students who stormed Taiwan’s education ministry in curriculum protest convicted on obstruction charges

Taiwan has convicted five students who stormed the education ministry last year to protest against a school curriculum seen as skewed towards Beijing.

The students were among a group of demonstrators angry over controversial curriculum changes which they said favoured mainland China’s view of the island’s history.

Student protesters arrested in Taiwan for breaking into education ministry

The new curriculum, introduced by the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang government which was then in power, sparked a string of protests and the suicide of a student activist, reflecting growing concerns over increased mainland influence on Taiwan particularly among the young.

Taiwan is self-ruling since splitting from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war, but it has never formally declared independence and Beijing still sees it as part of its territory.

Five students were indicted on obstruction of justice and coercion charges after they allegedly scuffled with security guards.

Four were given suspended sentences on Thursday, in addition to 120 hours of community service. The 30 to 40 day sentences were suspended for two years.

Protest groups face off in Taiwan over curriculum controversy

The fifth student was also found guilty, but received no sentence as he was less involved and had shown remorse, the court added.

One student said he would appeal.

“I didn’t push the security guards,” student Tsai Ming-ying told reporters, saying he would contest the “unacceptable” ruling.

A court statement said the students were given the suspended sentences due to their youth.

“They did not think things through enough,” it said, adding that the victims were willing to forgive them.

Taiwan’s new Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party government repealed the curriculum changes less than two weeks after it took office in May.

Hundreds demonstrate outside Taiwan’s education ministry after student’s suicide

It also dropped a lawsuit against activists of the “Sunflower Movement”, who stormed the cabinet headquarters to protest against a trade pact with mainland China in 2014.

The education ministry dropped trespassing charges against the five convicted students as well as other protesters but legally had to proceed with the more serious obstruction of justice and coercion charges.

Ties with the mainland have rapidly cooled since Tsai Ing-wen won the presidency in January as Beijing deeply mistrusts her traditionally pro-independence party.