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Protesters, supporters of reform bills gather outside Legislature

05/24/2024 11:44 PM
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CNA photo May 24, 2024
CNA photo May 24, 2024

Taipei, May 24 (CNA) Around 100,000 demonstrators gathered around the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Friday, calling for the withdrawal of controversial legislative reform bills proposed by opposition parties, while a handful of supporters for the amendments also showed up near the Legislature.

As of 9 p.m., the number of protesters -- who filled the streets surrounding the Legislative Yuan and the nearby Control Yuan -- had reached 100,000, according to the organizers of the protest, which included more than 50 civil groups such as the Taiwan Economic Democracy Union and Taiwan Citizen Front.

Chanting slogans such as "no discussion, no democracy," the demonstrators protested the ongoing second reading of the reform bills tabled by the Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People's Party (TPP) to expand the Legislature's power to oversee the government.

The protestors demanded the bills be sent back to legislative committees for further review.

The civil groups also stated that even if the amendments pass a third reading, the Executive Yuan should send them back for a second vote by the Legislature, seek a constitutional interpretation or hold a referendum.

Chen Mu displays a poster offering free massages during the demonstration around the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Friday. CNA photo May 24, 2024
Chen Mu displays a poster offering free massages during the demonstration around the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Friday. CNA photo May 24, 2024

One protester, Chen Mu (陳穆), slammed the two opposition parties for "proposing absurd bills," saying that many aspects of the process taking place in the Legislature do not meet the basic criteria of a democratic country, which include the bills not being clearly reviewed.

"Even if we cannot directly influence the [number of] legislative seats or the bills, we must come out [onto the streets]," said the 34-year-old. "We need to let the individuals in the Legislature know that they should respect the people."

Just a few blocks away, Liao Sheng-fang (廖盛芳), a supporter of Legislative Speaker Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) from the KMT, told CNA that he came all the way from the southern city of Tainan to show support for the parliamentary reform bills.

"Defending parliamentary reform is defending the essence of democracy. It's that simple," he said. "This bill was proposed by you [the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, DPP] before, and now that it is being proposed again through the coalition of the blue (the KMT) and the white (the TPP) -- the original proposers now oppose it."

Liao Sheng-fang, a supporter of the reform bills, is pictured outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei Friday. He traveled from Tainan. CNA photo May 24, 2024
Liao Sheng-fang, a supporter of the reform bills, is pictured outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei Friday. He traveled from Tainan. CNA photo May 24, 2024

Waving a huge Republic of China flag (ROC, Taiwan's official name) with only a few companions inside a designated area set up by the police bordered by barriers, the 62-year-old said he is not alone as the flag represents millions of ROC citizens.

"We are not mobilizing our supporters at all, it's just me coming here alone. One man with courage makes a majority," he added.

A tourist from Germany, 38-year-old Peter Samson told CNA that he attended the protest to "support" the new President Lai Ching-te (賴清德), whose party, the DPP, is the minority in the Legislature.

He said the protests in Taiwan are "extremely peaceful" when compared to those he has been to in Europe.

"There's a lot of crowd control [done by the protesters] ... I think in other countries, it's usually the police which is doing this. But here, the police presence is really low," he said.

Peter Samson, a visitor from Germany. CNA photo May 24, 2024
Peter Samson, a visitor from Germany. CNA photo May 24, 2024

The protesters and supporters of the reform bills gathered outside the Legislature as several amendments passed a second reading throughout Friday.

The KMT and the TPP, which have 52 and eight seats in the 113-seat Legislature, respectively, have shepherded their version of the reform bills through two of the necessary three readings in recent days, while the DPP’s 51 lawmakers have sought to drag out the process by filing various motions to voice their opinions or propose their version of the reform bills.

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 Sunny Lai)

Enditem/AW

Update

● Amendment criminalizing contempt of Legislature passes into law

● Third reading of major part of 'legislative reform' bills passed

● Taiwan lawmakers have passed contentious reform bills. Now what?

CNA photo May 24, 2024
CNA photo May 24, 2024
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