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Rallies held outside Legislature as oversight bills reconsidered

06/21/2024 05:10 PM
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CNA photo June 21, 2024
CNA photo June 21, 2024

Taipei, June 21 (CNA) Supporters and opponents of reforms aimed at strengthening government oversight gathered outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Friday, as lawmakers prepared to reconsider related amendment bills passed last month.

Arriving in tour buses, supporters of the bills jointly crafted by Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People's Party (TPP) lawmakers, who together hold 60 seats in the 113-member Legislature, flocked to Linsen South Road and Qingdao East Road well before 9 a.m. to take part in a rally organized by the KMT caucus.

By 10 a.m., the event had drawn a turnout of more than 1,000.

CNA photo June 21, 2024
CNA photo June 21, 2024

One of those at the pro-bill "Blue Eagle Movement" rally, a 19-year-old university student from Taoyuan, surnamed Chung (鍾), said the KMT and TPP's drive to strengthen legislative oversight was a "given," and something the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should have done long ago when it had a legislative majority.

Many of the elements in the bills were espoused by the DPP when they were the opposition, including expanding investigative rights and granting the Legislature the right to hearings, as well as opposition to acts that could be seen as contempt of the Legislature, Chung said.

But after the DPP became the ruling party, it backpedaled on those stances and is now opposed to efforts to push for legislative reforms, Chung said, arguing that the party could be doing so to "protect the officials it appointed."

The Cabinet, with the backing of President Lai Ching-te (賴清德), on June 11 delivered a request to the Legislature asking that the passed revisions to the Law Governing the Legislative Yuan's Power and the Criminal Code be reconsidered.

Under the amendments, public officials and civil servants who make false statements concerning important affairs they are privy to during hearings or when questioned by lawmakers can be fined up to NT$200,000 (US$6,186) or be sentenced to a jail term of less than one year, while those who "reverse-question" lawmakers can also be subject to a fine of up to NT$200,000.

CNA photo June 21, 2024
CNA photo June 21, 2024

The DPP lost its legislative majority after the Jan. 13 presidential and legislative elections. It now has 51 seats, with the opposition KMT and TPP holding 52 and eight seats, respectively. The remaining two seats are held by independents.

Meanwhile, hundreds of opponents of the amendment bills congregated on Jinan Road, where civic groups held news conferences as part of the "Bluebird Movement" that began last month.

A woman from Taipei surnamed Yeh (葉) said she opposed the measures as they had not been sufficiently discussed following due legislative procedure.

The bills were scheduled to be reviewed during a meeting of the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee on April 15, but were set aside for further deliberation during cross-caucus negotiations by KMT Legislator Wu Tsung-hsien (吳宗憲), who co-chairs the committee, after they were met with the opposition of DPP lawmakers.

The move drew strong protests from the DPP caucus, which argued that the proposals should have gone through a clause-by-clause review during committee meetings.

Also, Yeh said, they contained "unclear language" on investigative rights and what constituted "contempt of the Legislature."

This could leave the clauses open to exploitation and create instability in the government, Yeh added.

CNA photo June 21, 2024
CNA photo June 21, 2024

Many government officials are enlisted from academia or the business sector, and if taking up public service would run the risk of breaking the law, it could affect the willingness of fitting candidates to work for the government, she argued.

Another woman, surnamed Cheng (鄭), came from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan to protest the bills.

Cheng said if government officials insulted or slandered lawmakers, then the lawmakers could sue them in court.

"Debate is normal in a democratic society. There is no need to criminalize others just because they said something you didn't like," she said.

Cheng charged that the KMT and the TPP had violated due democratic procedure to steamroll the bills.

If that becomes the norm, the Legislature risks being infiltrated by China, as certain political parties could seek to push through bills that could compromise national sovereignty, she said.

(By Sean Lin)

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