The legislature’s plenary session was stalled for the entire day yesterday by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators upset by amendments to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法).
“No to the martial law-like Parade and Assembly Act! Give the streets back to the people!” DPP legislators shouted as they took over the podium at the Legislative Yuan’s assembly hall yesterday morning.
DPP lawmakers wore headbands and held placards showing their opposition to the Cabinet’s version of the Parade and Assembly Act amendments.
According to amendments proposed by the Cabinet, organizers must notify police authorities of the event time, location, or parade route five days in advance of any protest — violators could be fined up to NT$50,000 (US$1,480).
Police would reserve the right to prohibit the rally or change the parade route if they believed it would jeopardize national security, social order or public interest.
It would also give the police the right to order the break up of any rally blocking traffic.
“The Cabinet version of the revision gives too much power to the police,” DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said. “It’s anti-democratic, anti-human rights, it’s almost like martial law for rallies.”
KMT legislators, who supported the Cabinet version, condemned the DPP for stalling the meeting and holding back reviews of amendments to the Tobacco and Alcohol Tax Act (菸酒稅法) and the Income Tax Act (所得稅法).
“I don’t understand why the DPP is blocking bills related to public welfare,” KMT legislative caucus secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊纓) said.
“The KMT has a majority and is in control of the Procedure Committee,” DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德) said. “If they really care about public welfare, they should have put the tax reform bills before the controversial Assembly and Parade Act revision.”
The real cause of the stalemate does not lie with the DPP’s boycott, “but the absolute incompetence of the Ma administration,” he said.
At press time, DPP lawmakers were still occupying the podium, while most KMT lawmakers had left the venue.
The Taiwan Association for Human Rights also condemned the Cabinet version.
“The Assembly and Parade Act amendments proposed by the Cabinet and certain KMT legislators are no different from the original version as it still requires mandatory advance notice to the police and maintains buffer zones [around certain government offices],” the group said in a statement.
“Moreover, it provides a new measure through which violators may be fined repeatedly for the same act [if it continues],” it said.
Earlier in the day, the DPP had said passage of the revised act would jeopardize Taiwan’s freedom of assembly.
“The Assembly and Parade Act is an evil law in its truest form. Our stance is very clear. We want to abolish it. It is the same stance upheld by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) when the KMT was the opposition party,” DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) told a press conference at the DPP Caucus.
Tsai vowed his party would fight the KMT tooth and nail on the issue.
DPP Department of Youth Development director Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said if the amendments were passed, Taiwan would turn into a police state, citing the example of the visit by Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) last November.
“Such behavior would be legalized if the [amendment] were passed. It means in the future, as long as Ma or anyone from his administration wishes not to see any protests, authorities could deploy as many policemen as they wanted to keep protestors away from officials,” he said.