Taiwan’s opposition-led parliament amends law to expand power

Taiwan’s parliament, dominated by the China-friendly opposition, on Tuesday amended a controversial law to expand the lawmakers’ investigative powers, which opponents have slammed as an erosion of democracy.

Outside the parliament building, more than 30,000 protesters showed their outrage by giving the move the thumbs-down.

‘This is a law that is most difficult to operate and enforce because it had never been fully discussed,’ Puma Shen, a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said at the legislative session after the passage of the amendment, adding that the legislative procedure lacks transparency.

Protesters said the amendment’s passage would hinder the normal functioning of the government under new President Lai Ching-te of the independence-leaning DPP, who took office last week, and create chilling effects on Taiwan’s democracy.

In Taiwan, the directly elected president appoints the premier to head the Executive Yuan, which formulates policy. The Legislative Yuan then reviews p
olicies and enacts laws. The DPP lost its majority in the Legislative Yuan in January’s elections.

The opposition lawmakers have moved to increase their powers over the work of the president and the executive. Now the president should deliver the state-of-the-nation report during the legislature’s annual assembly and he must appear himself in person, according to state-run Central News Agency.

The new rules also stipulate that counter-questions are not allowed when being questioned by lawmakers, and the person being questioned may not refuse to reply or else they will be considered in contempt. Violators can be fined up to NT$200,000 (US$6,215).

In addition, lawmakers have expanded the number of people they can call in to question to include government agencies, military units, legal representatives, groups or other relevant people. Those who refuse to appear can be fined up to NT$100,000 by resolution of the legislature.

Tuesday’s demonstration was the fourth since mid-May. The protesters have expressed
concerns about what they see as a dysfunctional legislature and the violation of procedures by China-friendly opposition parties, including the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP).

KMT chairman Eric Chu said on Facebook on Tuesday that this reform is not only in line with public opinion after the 2024 presidential election, but is also a milestone in Taiwan’s third wave of democratic reforms. Chu called on President Lai to abide by the constitutional system, respect the Legislative Yuan, and comply with the expectations of the majority.

KMT legislative caucus whip Fu Kun-chi said on Tuesday that, with the amendment, opposition lawmakers will soon launch investigations into certain corruption cases as soon as possible. ‘We will bring sunlight into Taiwan,’ Fu told reporters.

But DPP legislator Kuo Kuo-wen said, ‘The parliament will become a platform for secret leakage because Beijing can gain key information through China-friendly lawmakers.’

‘We, as people f
rom the civil society, will urge the Executive Yuan to ask the legislature to reconsider the amendment,’ Taiwan Economic Democracy Union convener Lai Chung-Chiang told the crowd outside parliament, saying that the government is entitled to do so in accordance with the constitution.

‘Why are the adults in power unable to practise the rules and spirit of democracy?’ Chiu She-ching, a high-school student said on the stage to the crowd.

‘I cannot tolerate irresponsible lawmakers skipping the procedure to review the bill clause by clause. I’m so worried about the gradual erosion of democracy and freedom,’ a woman surnamed Lai, 39, with her 2-year-old girl sleeping in a baby cart, told dpa at the protest.

On stage, Wu Rwei-ren, a researcher at the prestigious Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, told protestors that foreign observers had pointed out that Taiwan’s opposition-controlled parliament was seeking to rebalance power.

‘The third reading passed today in Taiwan will ultimately benefit the Beiji
ng regime,’ Wu said, citing a new article in the current affairs magazine The Diplomat.

Source: Ghana News Agency