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Taiwan protesters gather against bill aimed at president

Chien-Hua Wan and Betty Hou, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Protesters took to the streets in Taiwan Friday night as opposition lawmakers pushed ahead with a bill intended to curtail the powers of the new president, Lai Ching-te.

Tens of thousands of people gathered outside the legislature in Taipei, while smaller demonstrations were reported in other cities around the democratic island of 23 million people.

The protesters, many of them backers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, are angry about legislation put forward by opposition parties that would expand lawmakers’ powers to investigate the government.

The opposition Kuomintang, China’s preferred negotiating partner in the chipmaking hub, had pushed to finalize the amendments as early as Friday.

The president’s party was able to slow the passage of the bill, ensuring it wasn’t formally approved before the meeting was adjourned around 11:30 p.m. local time.

Meanwhile, the protests were peaceful, with many people sitting on stools while students, politicians and others took turns to speak on stages amid a festive-like atmosphere.

 

The ruling party has said it fears the amendments could become a tool for the opposition to tie Lai’s government down in battles with the legislature during his four years in office. That could also impair his ability to enact policies in the island that sits at the heart of China-U.S. tensions.

The U.S., the island’s main military backer, is encouraging Taiwan to revamp its armed forces so it can better deter any attack by China. Beijing has pledged to bring Taiwan under its control eventually, by force if necessary.

The divide between Washington and Beijing was on display earlier this week when Lai took office. China condemned U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for congratulating Lai, sanctioned a former U.S. congressman who supported Taipei and hit U.S. defense companies with symbolic sanctions.

Beijing also signaled it will maintain the kind of pressure on Lai that it has for the past eight years under his predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen. China kicked off two days of drills around Taiwan on Thursday, which marked its biggest exercises targeting the island since April last year, when Tsai met then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the U.S.

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