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Thousands protest controversial bills to expand legislative powers

05/22/2024 12:52 AM
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Protesters gather outside the Legislature Tuesday to oppose a set of controversial bills that seek to expand legislative powers.
Protesters gather outside the Legislature Tuesday to oppose a set of controversial bills that seek to expand legislative powers.

Taipei, May 22 (CNA) Thousands of people had gathered outside Taiwan's Legislature as of Tuesday night to protest a set of controversial bills proposed by opposition parties that would grant the Legislature additional powers to supervise the executive branch of government.

As of 9 p.m., the crowd, led by over 40 civic groups, had filled the streets surrounding the Legislative Yuan, shouting slogans including "protect democracy, withdraw the bills, surround the Legislature" and holding placards that read "selling out the people" and "democracy killers."

Small podiums were set up at various road intersections around the Legislature for participants, many of them supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to share their views.

Organizers, including the Taiwan Citizen Front and Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, estimated that over 10,000 people joined the demonstration.

A student, surnamed Chen (陳), who joined the rally, told CNA that he learned about the event from friends and felt that the passing of law amendments to expand legislative powers by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People's Party (TPP) would be "outrageous," especially when there has been no substantive review of the bills.

As of 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, the Legislature had completed the second reading of amendments regarding how "government personnel" answer lawmakers' questions and how people are nominated to key government positions, as well as amendments that strengthen the Legislature's investigative powers.

The amendments fine "government personnel" who refuse to answer lawmakers' questions during interpellation sessions or who give false answers. "Government personnel" can also be held criminally liable or face impeachment for engaging in such actions.

The amendments also require lawmakers to vote by open ballot, instead of the current secret ballot, on nominations for key government positions, as well as fine nominated candidates who give false statements or hide information when answering questions or being vetted by lawmakers.

Furthermore, the amendments allow the Legislature to establish investigative committees or task forces to exercise its investigative powers. These committees would have the authority to access documents and hold hearings, where those summoned would be required to present testimony, documents, and other relevant materials.

Legislation in Taiwan must pass three readings to become law.

The KMT has argued that the legislative 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.

(By Liu Chien-pang and Christie Chen)

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