During a legislative question-and-answer session with then-premier Lin Chuan (林全) on March 10 last year, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) suggested that the government set up a task force to inventory laws that should be amended or abolished as part of the nation’s democratization.
Lin agreed, saying that doing so was “indeed necessary.”
The same month, the Cabinet announced that the Executive Yuan and its agencies would conduct an inventory of outdated laws and regulations.
Less than a month later, the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement urging the public to use the National Development Council’s online platform to submit suggestions of outdated laws that should be abolished.
A year later, it is time to examine the results and see if any laws have been transformed by the Cabinet’s plan.
First, there are some acts designed for certain government bodies or organizations that were established in China and could not be re-established after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government moved to Taiwan.
These include the Management Committee for the Mausoleum of the Nation’s Founding Father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), regional administrative offices for Control Yuan members, provincial examination and civil service offices, National Beiping Palace Museum and the Sichuan-Yunnan, Hunan-Guangxi and Sichuan-Guizhou railway companies.
It was suggested that some of the acts regulating these organizations should be abolished, but President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), then president-elect, said that she wanted “the public to see the DPP caucus address policy issues in an organized manner.” As a result, the measures were put aside.
Even the Act of the Central Trust of China (中央信託局條例), the state-owned financial institution that was merged into the Bank of Taiwan in 2007, is still in effect, as it involves regulations concerning insurance for military personnel, civil servants and public-school teachers as well as government procurements.
Second, there are 44 acts dealing with government bonds from the time when the Republic of China was still in control of China — 35 of which have been temporarily suspended — as well as the Ordinance for Paying Off the Deposits and the Loans Established in the Banking Industry in the Prewar Period (銀行業戰前存款放款清償條例).
Article 63 of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) stipulates that “various debts owed by any government bank [...] shall not be repaid prior to national unification,” which means the ordinance’s abolition has not been discussed.
However, according to Legislative Yuan bulletins released in 1953 and 1962, the Ministry of Finance had already proposed the abolition of 56 government bond acts promulgated in China.
Some senior lawmakers argued at the time that because a lot of the material related to 44 of these were no longer reliable, and since commodity prices had drastically changed, the government should stipulate new repayment measures and abolish these acts.
However, other lawmakers said abolishing the acts “would affect the cohesion of mainland residents and the communist bandits will take the chance to promote its united front strategy.” Consequently, the acts were retained.
The US dollar-denominated government bonds that the KMT last year attempted, but failed to retrieve were issued under the 1947 US Dollar Bond Act (民國三十六年美金公債條例). Since the government cannot repay the bonds according to the original terms, and since the bond issue records have been permanently reserved due to the enactment of the Archives Act (檔案法), keeping these acts will only cause confusion.
Last but not least, many laws essential to people’s livelihood or to administrative regulations were enacted during the Period of Political Tutelage, including the Land Act (土地法), Privately Owned Public Utilities Supervisory Act (民營公用事業監督條例), Custody Act (管收條例), Factory Act (工廠法), Employee Welfare Fund Act (職工福利金條例), Personnel Management Act (人事管理條例) and Procedural Act for Ending Political Tutelage (訓政結束程序法).
The overall framework continues to be built on the ideas of the era of “political tutelage,” and it has not undergone a single overhaul for 80 years.
Laws such as the Land Act have even been rendered ineffective by the enactment of new legislation, but they were overlooked during last year’s review.
It is difficult to see how these kinds of legal amendments would help promote a democratic transition.
Lee Jowquen teaches civics at a Taipei high school.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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