Taiwan: Youth protesters rally against tough scrutiny of pro-China lawmakers

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
5 Min Read

Thousands of mainly young protesters surrounded Taiwan's legislature late Tuesday night, CNN reported, and the opposition called for tougher scrutiny of the island's new leadership and its administration in parliament, which is dominated by lawmakers who favour closer ties with China. The parties expressed their opposition to the move.

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The protests mark a tumultuous start to the presidency of Lai Ching-te, who took office on Monday after securing a historic third consecutive term for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which supports Taiwan's sovereignty. Did. Known for advocating for Beijing and provoking its anger.

The scenes underscore the obstacles facing Lai's nascent administration in the absence of a parliamentary majority, control of which is now in the hands of two opposition groups, the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Taiwan People's Party (TPP), CNN reports.

Protesters expressed anger at the KMT and TPP's quick effort to pass a bill through the legislature that would have given the parliament sweeping powers to increase oversight over the executive branch.

Symbolizing their dissent, some protesters carried sunflowers, reminiscent of the 2014 student-led protest movement when hundreds of people occupied the legislature for weeks protesting the KMT's controversial trade deal with China. Had taken. Had taken. These protests played a significant role in the subsequent electoral defeat of the KMT, which has since failed to regain the presidency.

The proposed law introduces a new criminal offence of “contempt of parliament”, allowing for fines or imprisonment for government officials, including the president, who are found to have made false statements to the legislature. Officials could also face penalties for refusing to answer questions, provide documents or conceal information during hearings.

Critics argue that these measures could force officials to disclose sensitive information related to diplomacy and defense or risk criminal repercussions, which could compromise national security.

The DPP has accused the opposition of attempting to push the bill through without allowing sufficient time for policy deliberation. In contrast, the KMT and TPP insist that the legislation is necessary to increase government accountability and combat corruption, citing similar checks and balances in other democracies around the world. They accused the DPP of spreading misinformation and blocking legislative progress.

The deep political polarization came to the fore in the Parliamentary House brawl last Friday, in which MPs came to blows, resulting in injuries and hospitalisation.

As parliament reconvened on Tuesday to debate the bill, protesters gathered outside the Legislative Yuan, braving heavy rain throughout the day. Organizers estimated more than 30,000 participants, many of whom attended after completing their school and work obligations, CNN reported.

Some protesters condemned the legislative process, calling it a “black box” and called for the bill to be withdrawn. “No discussion, no democracy!” Slogans echoed in the crowd.

Ricky Lee, a 28-year-old office worker, expressed concern about the bill's vague language and lack of consultation. They fear abuse of power by legislators and are concerned about the lack of transparency in the draft bill.

Given the current cross-Strait tensions and the recent change in government, Lee stressed the seriousness of the opposition's attack on Taiwan's democratic institutions and political stability.

Discussion on the bill is scheduled to resume in the legislature on Friday.

Meanwhile, Lai, a 64-year-old former doctor and vice president, took office alongside new Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim, a former top envoy to the United States. Both leaders and their parties are staunch opponents of Beijing for their advocacy for Taiwan's sovereignty.

China's ruling Communist Party considers Taiwan part of its territory and has vowed to reunite the island by force if necessary, despite Taiwan's decades of self-rule, reports CNN.

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