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Taiwan lawmakers pass bill to curb president's powers

Chien-Hua Wan and Spe Chen, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Taiwan lawmakers passed legislation that could curb the authority of newly inaugurated President Lai Ching-te as thousands of protesters gathered outside parliament to oppose the changes.

The legislature passed the controversial measure Tuesday afternoon following a day of raucous debates and scuffles between Lai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party and opposition groups, which saw one lawmaker’s T-shirt ripped. That contrasted with demonstrations outside parliament that remained peaceful, though lively.

“Even if democracy is dead, we will not stop fighting,” shouted protesters, dressed in raincoats and holding umbrellas in the rain.

The bill was backed by the Kuomintang and the Taiwan People’s Party, both of which have backed efforts to improve ties with China. The two parties together control a majority in the 113-seat legislature. The new measures will allow lawmakers to summon the president, companies and even the general public for questioning and give them access to confidential documents.

After the bill was approved, KMT caucus whip Fu Kun-chi said the opposition will form a special task force to investigate corruption in the government. Lai’s DPP will seek a constitutional review of the bill, according to caucus leader Ker Chien-ming.

Critics of the bill have raised concerns that those powers could lead to leaks of sensitive information and punishment for those who refuse to answer questions.

 

Taiwan already has the Control Yuan, a supervisory branch of government with the power to investigate and impeach officials. On Thursday, the Control Yuan said the legislature risks violating separation of powers as stipulated by the constitution. TPP caucus whip Huang Kuo-chang, meanwhile, threatened to push for abolishing the Control Yuan.

Progress on passing revisions to the law had been slow earlier in the day, as the DPP made legislators go through all 77 articles of the measure — even those not being changed — as a stalling tactic.

The bill passed swiftly on its final reading via a show of hands, with 58 out of 103 lawmakers present voting in its favor. While Lai won in January’s presidential election, his party lost its majority in the legislature, changing the global chip hub’s political landscape.

Those divisions have defined Lai’s first weeks in power, with the amendments threatening to impair his ability to enact policies in the island that sits at the heart of China-U.S. tensions. China claims Taiwan as it’s territory and President Xi Jinping’s government slammed its new leader as an “independence worker” after Lai’s inauguration last week.

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