When activists take to the streets to voice their opposition to government policies or legislative decisions in a more extreme way — including occupations of the legislative chamber and the Executive Yuan building or paralyzing the traffic of major thoroughfares in Taipei — the government and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers condemn such acts, urging the dissidents to express their opinions within the democratic system in a lawful way.
However, when activists want to play by the rules, KMT legislators — who cloak themselves as defenders of democracy and talk as if they consider the law sacred — seem to suddenly decide that the law is not so sacred after all and seek to change the rules.
On Nov. 29 last year, the legislature — in which the KMT has an absolute majority — allowed an amendment to the Election and Recall Act for Public Servants (公職人員選舉罷免法) to pass its second reading, despite opposition from the Democratic Progressive Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
The amendment aims to raise the threshold for proposing a recall petition against elected officials or representatives by requiring petitioners to submit copies of their national ID cards, as well as letters of indemnity confirming that all the information they have submitted is truthful.
Not long before the initial passage of the amendment, the Constitution 133 Alliance launched a campaign to recall lawmakers who support nuclear energy and had collected enough signatures to start the recall process against KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇).
The amendment process eventually ceased, as the alliance failed to gather sufficient signatures to pass the second-phase threshold for its campaign.
However, after activists launched a campaign to recall KMT legislators supporting the cross-strait service trade agreement earlier this month, the legislature — under the lead of the KMT caucus — quickly scheduled a renewed review of the amendment to raise the recall threshold.
The current threshold for recalling elected officials and representatives is already criticized by rights activists as too high.
Currently, a recall proposal must be endorsed by 2 percent of eligible voters in a constituency to make it to a first review by the Central Election Commission. If it passes the first review, signatures from 13 percent of eligible voters in a particular constituency must be gathered to move it forward. In addition, the law prohibits any advertising or campaign activities for a recall petition.
However, while saying that they are defending democratic values and calling on activists to campaign for their causes in a lawful manner, the KMT caucus is now trying to change the rules and raise the bar for lawful recalls.
Republic of China (ROC) and KMT founder Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) once said that election, recall, initiative and referendum are the four major civil rights of the people, and that only when the public fully enjoy those four rights can a nation be considered a democratic republic.
KMT members have always claimed to follow Sun and his ideas, so it is a good time for them to review Sun’s ideas for a democratic state while he fought to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and establish the ROC more than a century ago.
Attorney and rights activist Huang Di-ying (黃帝穎) said at a press conference on Monday that the right to recall is not only a fundamental right of the people, but also a way for people to vent their dissatisfaction with the government.
“If the people cannot vent their anger within the system, they will certainly start their resistance outside of the system,” he said.
On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) spoke during the opening ceremony of this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA). For the first time in the assembly’s history, attendees, including Xi, had to dial in virtually. Xi made no acknowledgement of the Chinese government’s role in causing the COVID-19 pandemic, nor was there any meaningful apology. Instead, he painted China as a benign force for good and a friend to all nations. Except Taiwan, of course. The address was a reheated version of the speech Xi gave at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Xi again attempted to step into the
The World Health Assembly (WHA) held its annual meeting this week; Taiwan was still not represented. Its journalists were also barred from covering the online-only proceedings, despite the nation’s clearly demonstrated pandemic expertise that has set an example for the world. When the SARS epidemic reached Taiwan from southern China in 2003, dozens of lives were lost, but its health experts learned the importance of general testing, masks, technology to locate infected persons, swift decisions and quarantines. The lessons were applied immediately across Taiwan when COVID-19 arrived this year. From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan participated as an observer in the assembly under