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《TAIPEI TIMES》Foreign academics slam KMT, TPP legislative reforms

Former American Institute in Taiwan director William Stanton, front first left, and Formosan Association for Public Relations president Bob Yang, back center, pose with other attendees at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Hsieh Chun-lin, Taipei Times

Former American Institute in Taiwan director William Stanton, front first left, and Formosan Association for Public Relations president Bob Yang, back center, pose with other attendees at a news conference in Taipei yesterday. Photo: Hsieh Chun-lin, Taipei Times

2024/05/21 03:00

By Kayleigh Madjar / Staff writer

A group of 30 foreign academics yesterday released a statement condemning legislative reforms proposed by opposition lawmakers, saying they are unconstitutional and undermine the objective of good governance.

The statement publicized at a news conference in Taipei is cosigned by international academics, journalists and politicians, including former American Institute in Taiwan directors William Stanton and Stephen Young, and Formosan Association for Public Relations president Bob Yang (楊英育).

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) have put forward a set of legislative reforms that would introduce “contempt of legislature” charges, require the president to answer lawmakers’ questions and expand the legislature’s investigative powers.

The “contempt of legislature” proposals have been especially controversial, as they would allow government officials to be jailed for making remarks deemed to be untrue by lawmakers or for asking questions.

Brawls erupted in the legislature on Friday last week as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) protested the opposition’s attempt to pass the bills.

“I was appalled by and disappointed with the altercations that took place recently in the chambers of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan,” Yang told the news conference, calling the proposals “extreme.”

“The violence the world witnessed certainly will make it more difficult for us to advocate for Taiwan in the US,” he said, appealing to the KMT and TPP to exercise restraint and engage in substantive debate.

In the statement, the academics expressed “strong concern and disappointment” about the proposed reforms.

“Whilst reforms are a natural process arising from the parliamentary process, including in Taiwan, the set proposed by the two parties exceed the bounds of those found in constitutional democracies around the world, subvert the rule of law and parliamentary procedures, and should be taken in the context of the KMT’s stated objective of undermining good governance,” they said.

They fail to take into consideration Taiwan’s constitutional framework and go beyond the scope of legislative powers exercised in other countries, the signatories said.

“We note that in most constitutional democracies, while contempt of parliament or congress charges exist, they have generally applied to the defiance of lawfully ordered subpoenas or lying in the course of judicial investigations,” the statement said. “No democracy has applied contempt charges to officials discharging duties during the course of regular hearings or for merely ‘talking back.’”

They expressed concern about the implications of such a rule in a politically polarized climate, noting a comment from KMT Legislator Weng Hsiao-ling (翁曉玲), who said that the legislature and executive have a “top-to-bottom relationship.”

“All of this suggests that the goal of the reform is not to support good governance, but to broaden the authority of the legislative branch in a way that usurps and penalizes the executive. This clearly violates the separation of powers inherent in the Constitution,” the statement said.

In addition, the Constitution only allows for the president to deliver a “state of the nation” address rather than answer questions from lawmakers, it said.

Expansion of the legislature’s investigative powers would also conflict with the role of the Control Yuan, raising “serious questions” about potential overreach, the signatories said.

“All of this is to say that the reform proposals that have been put forward are potentially unconstitutional and a usurpation of political power held by other coequal branches of government,” they said. “They tarnish Taiwan’s image for good governance and further create political rifts at a time it can ill afford to do so, given growing challenges and complexities from Beijing.”

They also expressed concern that the opposition has not posted the bills for public review, blocked the DPP from debate and were to vote by a show of hands rather than a recorded vote for the first time in 35 years.

“With a new administration being sworn in on May 20 and hundreds of international dignitaries flying in for the occasion, they should be witness to Taiwan’s robust democracy, not the depth of its divisions,” the signatories said. “More importantly, the citizens of Taiwan deserve a government that is responsible, accountable and transparent, all of which this reform bill undermines.”

新聞來源:TAIPEI TIMES

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