Taiwan lawmakers fight during second reading of parliamentary reform News
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Taiwan lawmakers fight during second reading of parliamentary reform

Physical conflict broke out among lawmakers in the Taiwan Legislative Yuan, the island’s parliament, on Friday. At the time, the legislature was deliberating the controversial parliamentary reform proposed by the opposing parties, who were also the legislative majority. Five lawmakers were sent to hospital and the second reading will continue on Tuesday, May 21.

To block the reform package from passing its second reading in the legislature, minority party members attempted to occupy the president’s podium to hinder the meeting’s progress. While the legislative majority was defending the podium, one minority member was pushed from the podium which caused ahead injury, and he was later sent to the hospital. Regardless, the meeting continued until midnight when Han Kwo-yu, the president of the Legislative Yuan, adjourned the meeting to Tuesday. The legislative majority condemned the physical violence in the legislature.

The parliamentary reform package sought to expand the power of the legislature. At the center of the controversy is the new criminal offense of contempt of the legislature. The proposed offense seeks to criminalize all officials who were unwilling to cooperate with the legislature’s investigation. Critics are concerned that the proposed offense has the effect of codifying the investigative right of the legislature, which was contradictory to a previous constitutional interpretation issued by grand justices. The Taiwan Constitutional Court held that other government branches acting within their constitutional powers are not subject to the legislature’s investigative power.

Critics also argued that criminal liability could flow from a lawmaker’s subjective determination of whether an official committed contempt of the legislature. Deputy Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang and legal scholar Lin Chih Chieh contended that the offence would bring a chilling effect on officials, citizens and civic groups and stop them from presenting information at the legislature.

Another controversy is the opaque legislating process. The legislative majority failed to publicize the final version to be voted on and did not disseminate it to all lawmakers. Taipei City Council member Miao Po Ya challenged that it was unacceptable for the majority to propose 28 different versions of the reform, some of which contradict one another, to the legislature on the day of the second reading.

Lastly, local media reported that the legislative majority failed to engage in negotiation with the minority party in good faith during the freeze period provided by law. The Law Governing the Legislative Yuan’s Power provides for a freeze period of one month for “Consult Among Political Parties” to take place. Nonetheless, the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee refused to review the version proposed by the minority party, also preventing this version from being deliberated by the legislature.

The legislature passed, by the show of hands anonymously, the second reading of an amendment to compel the Executive Yuan to be queried by the legislature on its administrative policies and a report on its administration. The result showed 60 votes for and 50 votes against the amendment, though only 109 lawmakers attended the meeting. The saga triggered citizens to assemble outside the parliament on Friday, protesting against the violation of procedural justice.

The Democratic Progressive Party‘s (DPP) President-elect Lai Ching-te is going to take office on Monday. However, the DPP, as the ruling party, failed to maintain a legislative majority in the 2024 election. Opposing parties, the Kuomintang and the Taiwan People’s Party formed a coalition majority in the legislature.