80,000 demonstrators rally in Taiwan in largest protest yet against parliamentary reforms News
80,000 demonstrators rally in Taiwan in largest protest yet against parliamentary reforms

Nearly 80,000 demonstrators protested outside Taiwan’s parliament on Friday to voice their dissent towards controversial parliamentary reforms proposed by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party and the Taiwan’s People’s Party (TPP). The gathering was the third and largest rally around these reforms, marking a continuation of Tuesday’s protests and coinciding with the second reading of the two contentious bills.

The bills in contention are the parliamentary reform bill and the infrastructure project bill. The parliamentary reform bill, which aims to expand the investigative powers of Taiwan’s parliament, would enable lawmakers to demand information from government officials, military personnel and private individuals as well as criminalize “contempt of parliament.” Protesters have expressed concern over the bill’s broad scope and the lack of checks and balances, which they claim could lead to abuses of power and threaten national security.

On the other hand, the infrastructure project bill proposes an ambitious $61 billion infrastructure project to build a high-speed rail and improve highways on Taiwan’s less-populous east coast. Critics argue that the project is financially untenable, environmentally risky and politically motivated. They also claim the bill has the potential to exacerbate social inequalities and divert resources from essential public services.

The KMT, which supports closer ties with China but denies being pro-Beijing, claims the reforms are necessary to increase government accountability. The party stated that the reforms are in line with the majority opinion of the nation.

Protesters, many of whom are students and young professionals, accuse the KMT of attempting to ram through the bill without sufficient debate or consultation. National Pingtung University student Lee Yu-cheng stated:

I never expected that in Taiwan today, in 2024, in the Legislative Yuan, which is the highest legislative body in our country and which should be the place that pays the greatest attention to procedures and democracy, there would erupt an incident of such excessive proportions that violates democratic procedures.

A counter-protest was also organized for the first time in support of the bill but saw little turnout.