Images of brawling legislators are a common sight in Taiwan — and this embarrassment appears unlikely to end any time soon. Rational negotiation and compromise are rare in Taiwanese politics.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金浦聰) has suggested that the legislature follow the example of other countries and employ a sergeant at arms in the legislature to maintain order by commanding guards when things get out of hand.
Our legislators could use a dose of discipline — in the same way schoolchildren are sent out when there is too much excitement in the classroom. The legislature is not an elementary school, however, and there is no legal basis for introducing such a position. Even if there were, it is doubtful this would have a deterring effect.
The legislature has, in the past, used police to remove brawling legislators from the floor, but without powers to restrict such behavior, legislators are likely — regardless of whether there is a sergeant at arms — to return to the floor and take up where they left off. A sergeant at arms could not be empowered to remove legislators and hold them elsewhere without potentially violating the Constitution.
A sergeant at arms might be able to resolve a clash between a couple of people with the help of guards, but when entire groups of legislators go at each other, this would not be very helpful.
In many legislatures or parliaments that have such a post, the duties have become ceremonial or administrative. Force is rarely required.
In addition, the position of sergeant at arms has the potential to be politicized — especially in this country. Even if the legislature authorized a sergeant at arms to maintain order, that person would have to endure constant accusations from legislators — most likely from the opposition — that he or she is merely a political tool.
When legislators seeking to control proceedings resort to seizing control of the speaker’s podium and other confrontational tactics, the sergeant at arms would likely come under pressure from all sides over whether to call guards to remove one or more legislators from the floor. There is a risk that the sergeant at arms would be dragged into the conflict instead of serving as a referee.
Although there is no legal basis for introducing police powers into the legislature, there is a mechanism for maintaining the agenda. The speaker has the power to maintain the orderly implementation of the agenda, and there are generally guards present. Moreover, the Discipline Committee can punish legislators who disrupt proceedings. Yet these powers are rarely invoked. In the past, speakers have called in guards to separate battling lawmakers, but such tactics usually led to more chaos and were widely criticized.
If items on the agenda are addressed unfairly or unreasonably, the caucuses will never be able to reach a compromise. The losers in this situation are the public and the nation. If legislators do not address the source of disrespect, disruptions and all-out brawls, adding a sergeant at arms to the mix will have little effect.
Chinese strongman Xi Jinping (習近平) hasn’t had a very good spring, either economically or politically. Not that long ago, he seemed to be riding high. The PRC economy had been on a long winning streak of more than six percent annual growth, catapulting the world’s most populous nation into the second-largest power, behind only the United States. Hundreds of millions had been brought out of poverty. Beijing’s military too had emerged as the most powerful in Asia, lagging only behind the US, the long-time leader on the global stage. One can attribute much of the recent downturn to the international economic
Taiwan has for decades singlehandedly borne the brunt of a revanchist, ultra-nationalist China — until now. Ever since Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had the temerity to call for a transparent, international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has been turning the screws on Canberra. This has included unleashing aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomats to intimidate Australian policymakers, enacting punitive tariffs on its exports, and threatening an embargo on Chinese tourists and students to the nation. A tense situation became more serious on June 19 after Morrison revealed that a “sophisticated state-based actor” — read: China — had launched a
Asked whether he declined to impose sanctions against China, US President Donald Trump said: “Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal... [W]hen you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we’ve done a lot.” It was not a proud moment for Trump or the US. Yet, just three days later, John Bolton’s replacement as director of the National Security Council, Robert O’Brien, delivered a powerful indictment of the Chinese communist government and criticized prior administrations’ “passivity” in the face of Beijing’s contraventions of international law