30,000 protesters surround Taiwan parliament decrying proposed parliamentary reform law News
Kanshui0943, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
30,000 protesters surround Taiwan parliament decrying proposed parliamentary reform law

30,000 Taiwanese demonstrators surrounded the Legislative Yuan, the island’s parliament, on Tuesday protesting against the legislative majority’s attempts to enact new laws by allegedly violating procedural justice and the island’s constitution.

The controversies surround two bills, the parliamentary reform and a transport network bill, with a proposed cost of nearly $62 billion, equal to the island’s annual expenditure. The controversy surrounding the bill regards a possible violation of committee autonomy.  The legislative majority, comprising the Kuomintang and the Taiwan People’s Party, refused to discuss each provision in the legislative committee with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and preserved all provisions for the next stage “Consult Among Political Parties.”The legislative majority continued its refusal to negotiate at this stage and proceeded to the second reading last Friday, after the end of the statutory freeze period for the negotiation to take place.

As a result of the refusal to negotiate, the legislative majority put forward 28 different versions of the parliamentary reform bill and only disclosed, on Friday night after the planned meeting time, the final version to be voted on to lawmakers belonging to the ruling party. This version was unavailable on the legislature’s official website during the second reading.

Taipei City Council member Miao Poya criticised the legislative majority for flagrantly flouting the legislature’s procedural rules. Miao further explained that preliminary stages before the second reading—the committee’s review stage and “Consult Among Political Parties”—are important for public consultation and supervision. As a conventional practice, Miao said, the committee should aim to settle disputes on two-thirds of the provisions before putting a bill to the second reading. According to Miao, contrary to what the legislative majority have done, no major amendments should have been proposed at this stage.

Tuesday’s meeting at the legislature passed, by an anonymous show of hands, only 10 provisions as a result of the ruling party’s filibustering. One controversial amendment is Article 25 of the Law Governing the Legislative Yuan’s Power, which prohibits government officials from refusing to answer the Legislative Yuan’s questions or “counter-questioning” lawmakers. Criminal liability will be attached to refusal to reply and misrepresentation.

The transport network bill is equally controversial. The bill proposes a high-speed railway that connects the whole island. The bill alleged that the central government, in the past, failed to conduct a national plan, rendering unequal transport development in different counties and cities. Regardless, the ruling party argued that the bill involves vast transport network planning, falling squarely within the executive’s expertise and constitutional power. The ruling party contested that the Executive Yuan is entitled to apply for a constitutional interpretation from the Constitutional Court on Article 70, which stipulates that the legislature has no power to increase the expenditures in a budgetary bill. The Constitutional Court explained that the rationale is to prevent the increased expenditure from transforming into an extra tax burden on citizens.

Many compare the protest with the 2014 Sunflower Movement. Protesters occupied the parliament for 24 days to express their disapproval of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement and a violation of procedural justice.

The legislature will continue to review the parliamentary reform bill, and later the transport network bill, on Thursday, May 24.