Taipei, Dec. 31 (CNA) An anti-infiltration bill which criminalizes political activities backed by hostile foreign forces such as China, was pushed through the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-controlled legislature Tuesday, despite protests from the opposition that the bill could be used to suppress those who hold different political views to the government.
The bill cleared its third reading around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after lawmakers conducted a clause-by-clause review of the 12-article act amid protests launched by the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT).
KMT lawmakers chose not to vote during the bill review process and staged a sit-in protest to show their dissatisfaction.
The KMT has expressed concern that the bill could be used by the government to level unsubstantiated accusations and thus pose a direct threat to the 2 million Taiwanese who work and study in China.
Meanwhile, the People First Party (PFP) said the bill was initiated by the DPP in late November, and that pushing it through the legislative process in just one month meant there has been insufficient time for proper discussion and rational debate.
However, the DPP administration insisted the bill will not impact law-abiding Taiwanese citizens living in China.
It added that the bill is urgently needed, especially with the upcoming Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections, to safeguard Taiwan's democracy from the increasing coercion and threats of China, with its repeated attempts to infiltrate the country's politics.
The KMT and PFP caucuses both said they will request a constitutional interpretation from the Constitutional Court on the legitimacy of the bill as a last resort to overturn it.
According to the DPP, the bill complements existing law to prevent hostile forces from intervening in the nation's democratic political system or influencing national security through "infiltration sources."
"Infiltration sources" are defined in the bill as organizations or institutions affiliated with the government, political parties or other political groups of a foreign hostile force, and individuals dispatched by those entities.
A hostile force is defined as a country or group at war or in a military standoff with Taiwan that upholds the idea of jeopardizing Taiwan's sovereignty by non-peaceful means, which clearly refers to China, although Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said the bill applies to all foreign hostile forces.
It prohibits anyone from making political donations, influencing elections, proposing the recall of government officials, or launching a public referendum, at the instruction or with the financial support of an infiltration source.
It also prohibits lobbying on issues concerning national security, diplomacy and cross-strait affairs, at the instruction or with the financial support of an infiltration source.
The maximum penalty for such actions is five years in prison or a fine of NT$10 million (US$330,578), according to the bill, which will officially take effect after being promulgated by the president.
Defending the government's decision to push through the bill with minimal review, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said on Dec. 27 that it has to be done this legislative session or the whole process will have to start from scratch in the new legislature.
Taiwan is holding its presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11, and it is uncertain whether the DPP will have a majority of seats in the new legislature as it currently does.