The protesters were against revisions to classroom textbooks they say are an attempt to brainwash students into accepting the inevitability of eventual reunification of the island State with the People’s Republic of China under the One China Two Systems policy.
The issue has thrown the question of relations with China into the forefront of political debate in the lead-up to Taiwan’s presidential election in January 2016.
The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Government favours closer ties with the mainland, while fudging on the issue of how the process of reunification might take place.
The Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stresses the differences between Taiwan and China and seeks to promote a Taiwanese identity. It skirts the question of Taiwan’s status by saying as it is de facto independent, a formal declaration of independence is unnecessary.
This outrages Beijing which regards Taiwan as a renegade province which must eventually submit to its authority, by force if necessary.
While the KMT holds office, the fiction of progress towards reunification can be maintained, but that could hardly be the case with the increasing likelihood of a DPP victory.
For the first time in the nation’s history both major parties have chosen female candidates with the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hung Hsiu-chu, lining up against the DPP’s Tsai lng-wen.
China has regularly denounced the DPP as “splittist”, a term it often uses against people or organisations that advocate greater automony or independence from the central government. In the face of this, DPP leaders often modify their positions on independence as elections near.
But this is increasingly not the case with the young people taking part in the latest round of protests. "We are Taiwan. China is China," Liu Tzuhao, 18, said, voicing the views of her fellow demonstrators.
Another said the textbooks did not reflect a Taiwanese view of history. “It is just Beijing propaganda,” he said.“One country cannot have two versions of history.”
Later the Education Ministry appeared to back down, saying it was up to individual teachers whether they used the new textbooks or not.That is unlikely to satisfy opponents of the One China Two Systems policy in the lead-up to the January poll.