A well-known anecdote tells of a scientist who announces that he has invented a solvent capable of dissolving any existing material. A suspicious person then asks the scientist what he uses to store the substance.
\nIn Taiwan, there is an institution that is just as mighty as that solvent. It can pass laws that would destroy the nation's legal foundations -- the Constitution, constitutional politics and human rights -- and there is no mechanism with which to restrict it. It is the legislature. In the past, on the instruction of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), this all-powerful institution froze the Constitution by passing the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款), which became the most potent instrument of Chiang's authoritarian rule.
\nAlthough Taiwan is now a democracy, the spirit of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) remains the same. The blue camp, holding a legislative majority, recently helped pass the March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee Statute (三一九槍擊事件真相調查特別委員會條例) on the instruction of KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰). Transcending the Constitution and human rights, this statute undermines the principle separating the government into five branches as specified in the Constitution and also tramples on human rights. The law is not meant to pave the way for new authoritarian rule under the KMT, but rather to avenge Lien's defeat in the presidential election.
\nThe statute stipulates that the funds required by the truth committee will come from the Cabinet's budget, and the Cabinet does not have the right to refuse. This is in clear violation of the powers bestowed on the Cabinet in the Budget Law (預算法), including budget allocation, review and execution rights.
\nThe statute also stipulates that truth committee members will be appointed proportionally according to party representation in the legislature -- effectively usurping the authority of the Judicial Yuan. In addition, there are no laws restricting or regulating the committee, which is not required to produce subpoenas, search warrants or other documents required in any legitimate judicial procedure, and thus it all but overturns the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法).
\nFurthermore, according to this statute, investigations by the committee need not follow normal legal procedures, and individuals, organizations and even government bodies cannot refuse to be investigated, unless they are willing to face fines up to NT$1 million, possible prison sentences and denial of their right to leave the country. This is a gross violation of human rights, pure and simple.
\nUnder the Constitution, the Control Yuan has the right to launch investigations and impeachment proceedings. In response to calls for an investigation into the March 19 shooting, President Chen Shui-bian (
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Having returned to the UK late last year and with a Taiwanese spouse remaining in Taiwan, I have been afforded the chance to compare and contrast the UK and Taiwanese governments’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis. My early conclusions are that Taiwan benefits from a rational, competent government, which quickly recognizes, adapts to and confronts large-scale disasters. It is led by a government that does more than just talk of respecting democracy and human rights, one that is scrutinized and responds to criticism, one that is concerned about public opinion, and one that is used to dealing with emergencies on