Parliament Brawl Breaks Out in Taiwan as Left Tries to Limit Presidential Power

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A brawl erupted in the Taiwanese parliament on Friday during a debate over reforms to the legislature. Lawmakers shoved, struck, and tackled each other in a wild melee, climbing over tables to attack each other.

More scuffles flared up throughout the day as tempers remained on edge.

Taiwan’s legislature is no stranger to punch-ups, but Friday’s brawl was an outstanding exhibition of parliamentary pugilism and furniture acrobatics. Some previous battles have involved props, such as water balloons and pig intestines, but this one was pure hand-to-hand combat.

The cause of the fight was a push from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Party and its allies to give the legislature more oversight over the government.

Taiwan’s new president, William Lai Ching-te, will be inaugurated Monday. Lai won a commanding victory to succeed outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, but his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost seats, so he will preside over a minority government.


Lai Ching-te speaks to supporters at a rally on January 13, 2024, in Taipei, Taiwan. (Annabelle Chih/Getty Images)

The KMT did not pick up enough seats to form a majority, so it has been pushed into an alliance with a third group, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP). One of their mutual initiatives is a proposal to bring criminal charges against government officials accused of making false statements to parliament.

The DPP accused the KMT and TPP of trying to push their proposals through without proper debate and procedures, while the opposition claimed the DPP administration was unreasonably resistant to proper legislative oversight.

“The DPP does not want this to be passed, as they have always been used to monopolizing power,” said KMT lawmaker Jessica Chen, who popped out of the fracas to give an interview while wearing an army helmet.

According to the Taipei Times, the argument escalated from strong language to throwing hands in the hallway outside the legislative chamber. The brawl soon spilled into the chamber, where KMT lawmakers tried to form a human shield around Speaker Han Kyo-yu so he could keep calling for motions to read bills and cast votes.

At one point during the tussle, KMT lawmaker Hsu Chiao-hsin tried pulling out a flute and playing the Taiwanese national anthem to calm things down. Chen adopted a more confrontational stance, digging in her heels at the podium and shouting, “I’ll take on ten of you!” to the DPP.

One DPP lawmaker described scrapping with Chen as akin to “being bitten by a beast.” Others said Hsu eventually put her flute away and tried to strangle the DPP’s Wang Mei-hui with a flag.

DPP lawmaker Kuo Kuo-wen tried ripping some documents from the hands of parliament’s Secretary-General Chester Chou while he was running out of the chamber. Kuo claimed his actions were “justified” because the KMT and TPP have grown “increasingly violent,” and Chou was about to make some confidential papers public without going through the proper channels.

The parliamentary session went into overtime because of the disruptions, only to experience another one when two DPP lawmakers tried to force their way onto the podium. Five legislators were taken to the hospital for their injuries.

“The unruly scenes are likely to add to speculation that Mr. Lai will face a tougher challenge than President Tsai Ing-wen, his predecessor, in gaining support for his legislative policies after he takes office,” the Telegraph observed.


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