24 May 2024, 23:01

Tens of thousands protest Taiwan parliament bills to 'defend democracy'

          TAIPEI, May  24, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Tens of thousands of Taiwanese protesters
rallied day and night outside parliament on Friday, as lawmakers inside traded
insults, blows and theatrics over a series of bills to expand the legislature's

       The issue has dominated conversations on the self-ruled island for the past
week, eclipsing news of Beijing launching military drills around Taiwan to
"punish" President Lai Ching-te.

       China -- which claims Taiwan as part of its territory -- said Lai's
inauguration speech was a "confession of independence" after he was sworn into
office Monday.

       As Chinese planes and warships encircled the island on Friday, tens of
thousands thronged the streets around Taipei's parliament urging people to
"defend democracy" on a different front.

       At issue are five bills currently making their way through parliament,
proposed by Taiwan's largest opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party -- regarded as
pro-Beijing -- and the upstart Taiwan People's Party (TPP). The laws'
proponents say they are needed to curb corruption.

       The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) claims the laws are being
pushed through without proper consultation.

       Among the most controversial is a "contempt of parliament" offence,
effectively criminalising officials unwilling to cooperate with legislative
investigations, which critics say could be motivated by subjective politics.

       Software engineer Liao Wei-hsiang, 40, said he took the day off work
because he was "concerned (the opposition parties) will sell out Taiwan to have
some kind of trade with China for their own interests".

       Graduate student Amanda Tsai felt that the bills "would give too much power
to the lawmakers".

       Democratic Taiwan has a raucous political environment.

       While its presidency has been under the administration of the DPP since
2016, no single party currently holds a majority in parliament -- the
Legislative Yuan -- which could spell trouble for Lai.

       Friday morning kicked off with a brief fight between two lawmakers in the
Yuan, which was plastered with posters.

       "What is DPP afraid of?" said one sign, while another unfurled on the
chamber's floor said: "Oppose power expansion".

       In the evening, DPP lawmakers released a slew of blue and white balloons --
the colours of the opposition coalition -- that had the words "against evil
laws" scrawled on them.

       "The legislative reform is to return power to the people, to investigate
and prevent corruption," said KMT lawmaker Hung Mong-kai.

       "The mainstream public opinion is that the executive and legislative powers
can supervise and balance."



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