A brawl broke out among lawmakers at the legislature yesterday during a meeting of the Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee, as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) forced a total of 17 different amendments opposing the government’s plan to deregulate the use of ractopamine to allow imports of US beef containing traces of the substance through a preliminary review without any deliberation.
In line with legislative rules, the majority party — the KMT — can revise the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) by a vote during the second and third readings a month later, even if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and the People First Party (PFP) remain opposed to the policy.
The KMT lawmakers stepped up the review of the Act Governing Food Sanitation after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) two weeks ago set a May 20 deadline to resolve the US beef issue, the same day as his inauguration.
After the Ma administration announced its plan on March 5 to conditionally relax the ban on US beef, lawmakers across party lines have proposed amendments to block the policy, which the government could carry out via an executive order.
The amendments were placed under preliminary review during the Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee meeting by KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆), the rotating convenor, at which lawmakers and officials are supposed to go through a clause-by-clause review of the amendments.
At about 10am, opposition lawmakers dashed to the podium to stop Tsai from presiding over the meeting as they refused to discuss the issue until the Cabinet proposes its own amendment.
Tsai then called a recess and left the meeting room, while DPP lawmakers took turns to occupy the podium to block any further progress of the meeting.
The deadlock remained until 4:15pm, when Tsai entered the chamber via a back door with a wireless microphone and announced that all the amendments had been moved out of the legislature and referred for cross-party negotiations. Tsai’s move caught the DPP lawmakers, gathered at the front of the room, off guard.
Tsai then quickly left the room, shouting: “The meeting is now dismissed.”
Several DPP and TSU lawmakers rushed out and pulled Tsai back into the room, shouting at him for employing “dirty tricks,” resulting in physical clashes with Tsai and other KMT lawmakers, who were trying to protect him.
Tsai at one point fell to the ground, before he was finally pushed backed into a corner of the meeting room.
The DPP, TSU and the PFP condemned the way the KMT handled the meeting, arguing that Tsai’s announcement was invalid.