Legislature to tackle trade pact and referendum

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Chris Wang  /  Staff reporters

Tue, Jul 30, 2013 - Page 1

Despite protests inside and outside the legislature, lawmakers yesterday completed voting on the agenda for an extra legislative session starting today, which will include the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement and a proposed referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮).

Issues related to the alleged abuse and death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) earlier this month will also be discussed at the extra session, the second of this summer’s recess and scheduled to run until Friday next week.

Newly appointed Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) will be present at the meeting of the Foreign and National Defense Committee, which will take place tomorrow at the earliest, to take questions from lawmakers about the case and the ministry’s plans to correct flaws in the military’s human rights protection system.

Proposed amendments to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法), the National Security Act (國家安全法) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), which will refer cases of alleged abuse in the military to the civilian judiciary system, are to be reviewed in the extra session.

The amendments were drawn up by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which said they were was designed to address inadequacies in the court-martial system to investigate cases of abuse in the military as exposed in Hung’s case.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has also presented a similar amendment to the Code of Court Martial Procedure to address the problem.

The DPP and the KMT were divided over other items on the agenda, while the Taiwan Solidarity Union reiterated its opposition to holding an extra legislative session and boycotted the proceedings.

At the meeting of the legislature’s Procedural Committee, where the proposed nuclear plant referendum was the third item of the agenda set by the KMT, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that the only reason the KMT initiated an extra session was to push the proposal through the legislature.

Critics of the referendum have said that the way the question was posed — “Do you agree that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be halted and that it not become operational?” — would allow construction of the plant to continue by default because of the high threshold required by the Referendum Act (公民投票法).

Several KMT lawmakers, led by Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), voiced their concern over the operation of the nuclear power plant, the construction of which has been plagued by a number of safety issues.

Backed by 36 of the 66 KMT lawmakers, Wu proposed that the party only push for the referendum’s approval in the extra session if the government promises that the ongoing safety tests at the plant can be completed in six months and that it can ensure its safe operation.

Once the proposal clears the legislature, the referendum should be held no sooner than one month and no later than six months after.

The KMT caucus rejected his proposal. KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said he hoped that voting on the proposal could be held at the plenary session on Friday at the earliest.

The cross-strait service trade agreement was expected to be referred by the plenary session today for preliminary review on Thursday by a joint review committee after a public hearing is held tomorrow, Lai said.

Outside the legislature, civic groups continued their protests over the service trade pact with China early yesterday morning and briefly clashed with police when they entered the legislative compound.

Setting up tents and camping outside the legislature’s front gate, the groups vowed to monitor the lawmakers during the extra session.

About 100 protesters, led by Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan convener Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴), occupied the legislature’s front plaza at about 5:30am.

However, police reinforcements arrived and the protesters were removed by 8am. Some were injured during the clash with police. They retreated to their camp after another attempt to enter the legislature at 9:45am failed.

“Our goal is to stop the KMT caucus from placing the agreement directly to a second reading. We want to make sure that the pact would be screened and voted on clause-by-clause,” said Lu Chung-chin (呂忠津), president of the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP). “We are not going away without achieving this goal.”

The groups, including the TAUP, the Taiwan Nation Alliance, the 908 Taiwan Republic Campaign, the Taiwan Democracy Watch (TDW) and the Cross-strait Agreement Watch, formed the “Democratic Front of Anti-opaque service trade agreement” on Sunday night to coordinate efforts to oppose the pact.

In a statement, the alliance reiterated its opposition to the agreement and the “fair trade myth,” which it said could harm local job opportunities. It also demanded the exclusion of Chinese investment in sensitive industries, passage of a media anti-monopolization law and a reassessment of Taiwan’s trade liberalization policy.

Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-lien (孫友聯) and the TDW panned President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “five noes” and “10 growing strengths” slogan to promote the trade pact.

The so-called “growing strengths” would only benefit business owners and large corporations, and harm millions of workers, the TDW said.

Son said Ma’s five noes, which promise that Chinese workers and investors will not be allowed into Taiwan and that the taxi, Chinese herbal retail and publishing sectors will not be liberalized, reveal only part of the truth behind the pact.

“If you read the agreement carefully, the five noes are meaningless because there are too many loopholes,” he said.