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Taiwan parliament passes bills to expand its power

Proponents say more powers needed to curb corruption but critics fear weaken the self-ruled island's democracy
Lawmakers from the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) wave the Anthurium flowers to celebrate their victory as Parliament Speaker Han Kuo-yu (C) knocks the hammer to pass Parliament Reform Bills in Taipei on May 28.

Lawmakers from the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) wave the Anthurium flowers to celebrate their victory as Parliament Speaker Han Kuo-yu (C) knocks the hammer to pass Parliament Reform Bills in Taipei on May 28. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 29, 2024 05:11 AM GMT
Updated: May 29, 2024 05:13 AM GMT

Taiwan's parliament passed a package of controversial bills on May 28 to expand its power as thousands of disapproving protesters rallied outside and chanted "defend democracy."

Proponents say expanded parliamentary powers are needed to curb corruption but critics fear the laws could weaken the self-ruled island's democracy against the influence of China, which claims it as part of its territory.

New Taiwan President Lai Ching-te represents the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which advocates for the island's sovereignty but lost its majority in parliament in the January elections.

The bills were proposed by the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan's largest opposition party that is widely regarded as friendlier to Beijing, and passed with the support of the upstart Taiwan People's Party on Tuesday after several sessions.

Among the amendments passed was one requiring the president to hold a "State of the Nation" address to parliament and answer legislators' questions, a first for Taiwan.

The parliament can now also exercise its "power of investigation", requiring government agencies, military units, private companies, or relevant individuals to provide information.

They may be fined up to NT$100,000 ($3,100) if they refuse, stall or conceal information.

"Many of our friends outside are frustrated and sad, and we regret that the evil bills to expand parliament's power are passed today," said DPP lawmaker Huang Jie.

"It's absurd that even after the third reading, the complete clauses are still not released on the parliament's website... The process is in a black box from the very first to the very last moment," Huang said.

'It's not over' 

The DPP hung banners around parliament's main chamber that read "oppose expanding power, support Taiwan", while party lawmakers threw paper planes at the KMT during the lengthy session on May 28.

Another bill passed penalizes "contempt of parliament", which could lead to a further fine of NT$200,000.

The DPP has said the laws were pushed through without proper consultation, with lawmaker Chiu Yi-ying accusing the KMT of "following (Chinese President) Xi Jinping's plan".

Protesters rallied through the night, holding signs that said "no discussions, no democracy".

"This matter has become a long-term battle, it's not over," said protester Wang Tin-lin, 39, after hearing that the bills had passed.

"We will not lose confidence and fighting spirit because of this incident."

Tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the parliament at the height of the demonstrations on Friday, sitting in heavy rain and demanding that lawmakers drop the bills.

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