A fierce parliamentary battle between the ruling Chinese National Party (KMT) and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is expected to get underway this week.According to the legislative agenda for the upcoming session of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, The KMT will prioritize the controversial Cross-Strait Supervision and Regulation bill, as well as the Free Economic Demonstration Zone legislations. Last Friday, two KMT lawmakers Wu Yu-Sheng (吳育昇) and Yang Chung-Ying (楊瓊瓔) attempted to put both bills onto the agenda, but failed when DPP lawmakers proposed more than 400 amendments to the agenda of the meeting, effectively stalling the meeting.
The Cross-Strait Supervision and Regulation Bill was main demand from students and activists during the Sunflower Movement in March of this year. The protesters had proposed a version of the bill, in which the parliament would be given much more oversight and veto powers regarding the negotiations with China, assumedly to safeguard Taiwan’s economic interest and sovereignty amid closer economic relationship with China. Since the movement ended, the KMT and the DPP had come up with ten different drafts of the supervision regulation. However, the drafts have not yet been put on the actual legislative agenda to be deliberated.
With nationwide local elections about three weeks away and the KMT currently trailing behind the DPP in most surveys, many consider KMT’s introducing the bill during Monday’s legislative session as a way to refocus the battle between the two parties on this headline issue. Wu, the coordinator of the Legislature’s domestic affairs council, criticized DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-Wen for mandating DPP lawmakers to strategically avoid dealing with the Cross-Straits Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA) and the Cross-Strait Supervision and Regulation bill. With more than 400 amendments stalling the agenda before the Supervision and Regulation bill can be discussed, the KMT’s plan to push it through before the midterm elections can be jeopardized.
The other far-reaching economic legislative proposed by the KMT will set up Free Economic Demonstration Zones throughout Taiwan. The FEZs will be treated as special territories outside of Taiwan’s customs, where tariffs and other regulations will be reduced for businesses. Fei Hong-tai (費鴻泰), Director of KMT’s policy council, said that as China and South Korea plan to sign a Free Trade Agreement at the end of the year, the KMT is facing tremendous pressure to pass the CSSTA and the Supervision and Regulation bills to boost Taiwan’s competitiveness. However, opponents of the economic zones accuse the KMT of using the zones as a backdoor for Chinese investments, and DPP lawmakers have vowed to strictly scrutinize every provision in the bill.
In the meantime, leaders of the Appendectomy Project, a civic group collecting petitions to recall several legislators, are planning a series of events to publicly denounce KMT lawmakers like Wu. They plan to set up booths within these candidates’ electoral districts, and invite voters to sign their recall petitions.
(Feature photo of Port of Kaohsiung, by Taiwan’s Task Force for Maritime Affairs)