Taiwan parliament passes controversial bills despite protest

Published May 29, 2024
LAWMAKERS from the opposition Kuomintang party wave anthurium flowers to celebrate their victory as Taiwan parliament’s speaker Han Kuo-yu (top centre) knocks the hammer to pass the reform bills.—AFP
LAWMAKERS from the opposition Kuomintang party wave anthurium flowers to celebrate their victory as Taiwan parliament’s speaker Han Kuo-yu (top centre) knocks the hammer to pass the reform bills.—AFP

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s parliament passed a package of controversial bills on Tuesday to expand its power as thousands of disapproving protesters rallied outside and chanted “defend democracy”.

Proponents say expan­ded parliamentary powers are needed to curb corruption but critics fear the laws could weaken the self-ruled island’s democracy against the influence of China, which claims it as part of its territory.

New Taiwan President Lai Ching-te represents the Democratic Progres­sive Party (DPP), which advocates for the island’s sovereignty but lost its majority in parliament in January elections.

The bills were proposed by the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan’s largest opposition party that is widely regarded as friendlier to Beijing, and passed with the support of the upstart Taiwan People’s Party on Tuesday after several sessions.

Among the amendments passed was one requiring the president to hold a “State of the Nation” address to parliament and answer legislators’ questions, a first for Taiwan.

The parliament can now also exercise its “power of investigation”, requiring government agencies, military units, private companies or relevant individuals to provide information. They may be fined up to NT$100,000 ($3,100) if they refuse, stall or conceal information.

“Many of our friends outside are frustrated and sad, and we regret that the evil bills to expand parliament’s power are passed today,” said DPP lawmaker Huang Jie.

“It’s absurd that even after the third reading, the complete clauses are still not released on the parliament’s website... The process is in a black box from the very first to the very last moment.”

The DPP hung banners around parliament’s main chamber that read “oppose expanding power, support Taiwan”, while party lawmakers threw paper planes at the KMT during Tuesday’s lengthy session.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024

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