Taiwan’s opposition-led parliament is changing the law to expand power

Taiwan’s parliament, dominated by the China-friendly opposition, amended a controversial law on Tuesday to expand lawmakers’ investigative powers, in what opponents called an erosion of democracy.

Outside the parliament building, more than 30,000 demonstrators showed their outrage by giving a thumbs down.

Protesters said the amendment’s approval would hamper the normal functioning of the government under new President Lai Ching-te of the independence-oriented Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who took office last week, and would have chilling consequences for Taiwan’s democracy .

In Taiwan, the directly elected president appoints the prime minister as head of the Executive Yuan, which formulates policy. The Legislative Yuan then reviews policies and enacts laws. The DPP lost its majority in the Legislative Yuan in the January elections.

Opposition lawmakers have now moved to increase their power over the work of the president and the executive branch. Now the president must deliver the state of the nation report at the annual meeting of the legislature and appear in person, state news agency Central News Agency said.

The new rules also stipulate that counter-questions are not allowed when questioned by lawmakers, and that the person questioned may not refuse to answer or be considered contemptuous. Violators may be fined up to NT$200,000 (US$6,215).

In addition, lawmakers have expanded the number of people they can interrogate to include government agencies, military units, legal representatives, groups and other relevant people. Those who refuse to appear may be fined up to NT$100,000 by decision of the legislature.

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