Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers criticized the Cabinet over a recent change of wording in its draft amendment to the Disaster Prevention and Response Act (災害防救法), saying that the changes were made to please China.
The Cabinet proposed changes to the law to solve problems in Taiwan’s disaster prevention and response system after the country faced a massive disaster brought by Typhoon Morakot last August.
Although the draft amendments passed their initial review at the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee last week, DPP legislators asked why the Cabinet proposed changing the term “international rescue efforts” in Article 23 of the law — which stipulates that the government should always be prepared to accommodate international rescue efforts — to “rescue efforts from outside (境外).”
DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) called the move a “downgrading of Taiwan’s sovereignty,” saying the change may have come from “the top.”
“[President] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) wanted Chinese rescue teams to come to Taiwan, but also wanted to prevent Chinese rescue efforts from being considered ‘international rescue efforts.’ That’s why the change was proposed,” Wong said. “In fact, Chinese rescue teams could still come to Taiwan without changing the wording, but Ma has this very bizarre mentality.”
“It doesn’t make any sense to change the wording when no one asks us to change it, [while] downgrading our sovereignty,” she said.
DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) shared Wong’s concerns when the amendment proposals were under discussion at the committee.
Although National Fire Agency officials have agreed not to make the change, the revision was still passed after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislators, including Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), held private talks with officials at the Ministry of the Interior.
Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said the term “international rescue efforts” could be a problem when Taiwan accepts rescue teams from China, because the Act Governing Relations between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) does not define cross-strait relations as international.
“The term ‘outside’ makes things more flexible,” he said.
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