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Protesters call for transparency regarding 'legislative reform bills'

05/21/2024 06:28 PM
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Hundreds gather outside the Legislature on Tuesday into the night to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
Hundreds gather outside the Legislature on Tuesday into the night to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) Hundreds of people gathered outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills" and demanding last Friday's legislative proceedings be declared null and void.

The demonstrators, including some affiliated with about 20 civic groups, decried perceived "procedural issues" and called for the bills -- jointly crafted by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People's Party (TPP) -- to undergo a committee review in line with due process.

Hundreds gather outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
Hundreds gather outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024

The opposition caucuses voted to advance the bills to a second reading after the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition caucuses failed to reach a consensus during an April 15 committee meeting, which prevented them from undergoing substantive review.

A protester holds a sign that reads "I'm in contempt of congress" outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
A protester holds a sign that reads "I'm in contempt of congress" outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
Hundreds gather outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
Hundreds gather outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
CNA photo May 21, 2024
CNA photo May 21, 2024

Economic Democracy Union convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) criticized the KMT caucus for using technicalities to block matching bills submitted by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus from being reviewed at committee meetings.

The DPP lost its legislative majority after the Jan. 13 presidential and legislative elections. The party now has 51 seats in the 113-seat Legislature, with the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People's Party (TPP) holding 52 and eight seats, respectively, with the remaining two seats held by independents.

Lai accused KMT Legislator Weng Hsiao-ling (翁曉玲) and Taiwan People's Party (TPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) of engaging in opaque discussions during which the two crafted a final version of the bills debated last Friday from more than 20 drafts previously submitted by the two parties.

Lai accused the KMT and TPP of resorting to "undemocratic behavior" for the manner in which it was drafted. The Friday vote occurred without the bills first being published by the Legislature, which he said deprived people of their right to express their opinions.

Those bills, the protesters said, should therefore be sent back to the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee for a substantive review, and last Friday's proceedings should be declared invalid.

In response, KMT caucus secretary-general Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷) rejected any accusations of backroom dealings and accused the DPP of using delaying tactics to stall legislative proceedings.

Legislative Speaker Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) offered to convene a cross-party meeting this morning to discuss the bills, but unfortunately, none of the three DPP caucus leaders attended, Hung said, adding that the KMT had no choice but to continue with the agenda.

In a statement issued Tuesday, KMT spokeswoman Yang Chih-yu (楊智伃) said Taiwan's democracy requires accountability and a strong supervisory force.

A message of protest is written on a fogged up glass by protestors. CNA photo May 21, 2024
A message of protest is written on a fogged up glass by protestors. CNA photo May 21, 2024
CNA photo May 21, 2024
CNA photo May 21, 2024
Hundreds of people hold sunflowers in reference to the Sunflower Movement from 10 years ago to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
Hundreds of people hold sunflowers in reference to the Sunflower Movement from 10 years ago to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Otherwise, the authoritarian behavior of those in power will ultimately harm Taiwan's hard-earned democracy, she said, urging the DPP to exercise restraint and not stand in opposition to democracy and public opinion.

Meanwhile, the review of the bills drudged on in the legislative chamber.

DPP lawmakers, who are opposed to them, made speeches in an attempt to stall proceedings.

DPP Legislator Puma Shen (沈伯洋) criticized the KMT caucus for filing "extempore -- spur of the moment -- motions" to amend draft clauses the caucus had submitted, saying they were trying to ensure controversial proposals evaded scrutiny.

DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said a draft provision crafted by the opposition parties seeks to punish government officials who are "in contempt of the Legislature" because of their "talking back" to lawmakers while they are being questioned.

DPP members protest outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024
DPP members protest outside the Legislature on Tuesday to call for more transparency regarding the controversial "legislative reform bills." CNA photo May 21, 2024

Wu said the proposal does not define what specific actions constitute "talking back" and even if it did, it is so undemocratic that if passed into law, it would resemble reintroducing the abolished Article 100 of the Criminal Code used by the government to stifle freedom of speech during Taiwan's authoritarian era.

The KMT had argued that the reform bills are necessary to enhance the Legislature's oversight role, bring about greater government transparency and accountability, and force the ruling party and its government officials to face and respond to public opinion -- which it said the DPP had not had to do over the past eight years due to its legislative majority.

It argued that granting the Legislature broader "investigative rights" will help to prevent and expose scandals, such as those involving stock manipulation, government procurement and profiteering.

Requiring presidents to make an annual address at the Legislature and be questioned by lawmakers would help prevent presidents from shirking their responsibilities, the KMT argued, noting that former President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had avoided holding press conferences for over 700 days during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, allowing the Legislature to fine or hold in "contempt of the Legislature" people or entities who do not comply with an investigative inquiry will prevent government officials from lying in the Legislature, the KMT said.

(By Sean Lin)

Enditem/kb

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