Thu, Nov 17, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Public hearing on amendments results in chaos

‘PERFORMING MONKEYS’:Labor rights advocates said legislators turned a deaf ear to their concerns, accusing Chen Ying of using her mobile instead of listening

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Police lift Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee coconvener Chen Ying, center, after she fell on Taiwan International Workers’ Association member Hsu Wei-tung during a scuffle at a hearing at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Clashes yesterday broke out at a public hearing at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on proposed amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), with opponents saying that the event was a “rubber stamp.”

“Where is [Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus convener] Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘)? Come out [DPP caucus whip] Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡), come out [DPP legislators] Frida Tsai (蔡培慧), Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴) and Chung Kung-chao (鍾孔炤)!” shouted dozens of people affiliated with the Workers Struggle Alliance, who rushed from their seats and surrounded Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee coconvener Chen Ying (陳瑩) after she declared a rest break in response to sustained interruptions.

Rows of chairs were tossed aside as protesters sought to block Chen from leaving the room, with both her and Taiwan International Workers’ Association member Hsu Wei-tung (許惟棟) eventually being carried out on stretchers after she fell onto Hsu in the scuffle.

Police forced their way through the gathering to take Chen to a chamber side room, where the doors were sealed off by dozens of officers.

Officers also formed a human wall to ensure Chen’s access to an elevator, holding open an elevator’s doors for more than 15 minutes to enable a swift exit as soon as her stretcher arrived.

Reports said Chen felt nauseous, while Hsu was said to have fainted after being on a hunger strike outside the Legislative Yuan’s gates for the past two weeks.

Opponents of the proposed changes shouted slogans against “fake” hearings as they left the room, later blocking a side entrance to the Legislative Yuan with a sit-in rather than participate in the afternoon session.

“We could say everything we want to say [in the hearing], but there is no point, because no one is listening,” Workers’ Struggle Alliance member Lu Chyi-horng (盧其宏) said.

“Who can we address our concerns to? They just treat us like performing monkeys,” Lu added.

Brewing tensions throughout the hearing came to a head after Hsu demanded that Chen summon DPP committee members and caucus leaders to the hearing, drawing protests.

Chen was challenged throughout the morning, with speakers going over their allotted times and accusing her of using her cellphone instead of listening.

Labor rights advocates said that the hearing was a “rubber stamp” and criticized the low attendance by legislators and statements by Ker that committee review would be completed today.

“If Ker does not even attend [the hearing], what right does he have to say that the amendments will leave the committee tomorrow [today],” Lu said.

In addition to Chen, the only legislators in the room when the protesters rushed to the front were the New Power Party’s (NPP) Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) and the DPP’s Chen Man-li (陳曼麗).

The amendments, which would cut seven national holidays as part of broader reforms to reduce working hours, have followed a tortuous legislative path, returning to the committee this week following controversy over a lack of review last month, when they were sent directly into cross-caucus negotiations.

Protesters earlier disrupted the hearing after Chen Ying initially attempted to block more than a dozen of their supporters from entering the chamber.

She relented only after NPP caucus convener Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) and KMT caucus whip Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) intervened, while demanding that the other party caucuses take responsibility for ensuring order.

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