Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Roach King is now in charge of handling roach infestations

The hilariously unconstitutional expansion of legislative powers has now passed its third reading under the guidance of a hypocrite, an idiot, and a guy who went to jail for corruption. Seriously, this new legislation is the worst game of fuck marry kill one could ever play. 

Honestly, the best thing I can say about caucus Whip Fu Kun-chi is that despite being a sex pest, it's not even the thing he's most famous for. 

So now Fu, a guy so corrupt his name is actually shorthand for corruption -- is now announcing a task force to root out corruption. And there are still KMT and TPP supporters out there who don't see the problem with that. You can be sure, however, that his new "anti-corruption task force" will only target corruption in the DPP. It certainly can't go after corruption in the KMT or TPP, because the guy leading the task force is also one of the most corrupt people in government. We just put King Roach in charge of roach extermination.

Someone asked me today why the KMT would put someone like Fu in a position of power, if he's so awful. My response was "that's an excellent question, you really should consider why the KMT would do that." 

You could say the same for Han Kuo-yu, the presidential nominee who failed so spectacularly that he couldn't even keep his day job as Kaohsiung mayor afterward, who beat up Chen Shui-bian over a misunderstanding and actually killed a guy.

Indeed, why would the KMT elevate men like this? Why would it encourage them to pass sweeping bills extending the legislature's power? There are many possible answers, and none of them look good for the party.


And this is why one should be immediately suspicious of legislation meant to "root out corruption": not because taking measures to stop it are inherently bad or useless, but because such initiatives are so often covers for one political group or party to target another. If it reminds you of Xi Jinping's "anti-corruption campaign", which is barely even a cover for destroying anyone who might challenge his should. The two share very similar goals, and Fu's announcement only cements that. 

The comparison to China is perhaps apt: the DPP have been accusing the KMT and TPP of passing this legislation as a result of collusion with the CCP. I can't prove that the KMT and TPP have been taking direct orders from China on this specific legislation, but dissidents have said that Chinese agents do attempt to undermine Taiwan's democracy, and one even states that China did in fact plan this, or something like it. 


What's more, KMT lawmakers meet with Chinese officials openly and TPP leaders now lean strongly pro-China, no secrecy involved. Fu's recent trip isn't even close to the first one, and senior KMT leaders such as Ma Ying-jeou pretty openly work with the CCP and against Taiwan's interests. 

Frankly, the only reason I wouldn't call that collusion is because that term carries a strong connotation of secrecy or deception. Is it even collusion if they're not trying to hide it? I think the more appropriate term might actually be "treason", but you can be sure that King Roach's new task force isn't going to do anything about that. 

Some might say that the DPP accusing the KMT of collusion with China is baseless; I strongly disagree. I can't say the extent to which such an accusation would hold up in court, but in terms of saying it out loud, there seems to be plenty of evidence. In fact, I'll say it here: although the specific order to pass this specific bill may not have been directly given, the KMT are indeed colluding with the CCP to undermine Taiwan's democracy, and both the DPP and the protesters are smart to see it for what it is. 

Now that I've let out some of my anger about these developments, and I've finally got some free time after the protests, I wanted to look at some of the accusations flying against the DPP. The first is that they proposed the same legislation in the past, so they have no reason to oppose it now. 


As with much disinformation, there is a kernel of truth here (the best fake news is often at least partly correct, complete fabrications are less convincing). The DPP did propose legislative reform in the past, and some of their ideas look similar, at least superficially, to what the KMT just passed. 

Here's where critical thinking comes in, to indicate that there might be some disinformation here: if the proposals were exactly the same, then the KMT passing them now implies that they agreed with the core ideas. So why didn't the KMT accept them when the DPP proposed them in 2012? If the DPP wanted this, why didn't they pass it in the eight years they were in power? And if they still want it, why didn't they support the KMT and TPP in passing it now? 

None of that adds up, therefore, there are most likely differences between the 2012 proposals and the current legislation. 

For one, proposals and actual passed legislation are very different things. Proposals are almost by nature imperfect. They undergo discussion and revision and rarely, if ever, make it to law without major changes. Comparing a proposal to a passed law is at its core disingenuous. It's like comparing a clunky rough draft to a published novel. Higher standards must necessarily apply to the latter. 

You can read some of the pertinent documents in a tweet here. Although I can read Mandarin, my government-ese isn't quite sufficient, so I asked a translator friend to double-check (as I don't want to rely on AI tools for this). They do propose formalizing the legislature's investigative power, and do propose punishments for witnesses who lie or fail to appear. However, they do not appear to me to be exactly the same as what has just passed.

An infographic from the DPP outlines the differences between their proposals and the new legislation:

While it would be better to have this from an unbiased source, this is not bad. And this one I can actually read. It compares the DPP's 2012 proposal with the KMT's new slate of laws. 

The DPP proposal: 
- did not mention 'contempt of the Legislature'
- did not mention 'abusive counter-questioning' (these are both called 'vague' legal concepts)
- does not allow for 'continuous penalty'

The KMT-TPP bill: 
- allows the legislature to decide what constitutes 'contempt' or 'counter-questioning'
- allows the legislature to impose multiple penalties (this means they can penalize a witness with fines or jail time for more than one offense during questioning)
- allows the legislature to decide what is and is not punishable

So far, this is true. Nothing I can find from any of the DPP proposals mentions not allowing counter-questioning (although I've struggled to access the legislature's website recently, forbidding counter-questioning has been a major topic of discussion during these protests). 

In fact, I'd go so far as to say this first section is worse than it sounds. If the legislature gets to decide itself what is and isn't "abusive counter-questioning" and "contempt of the Legislature", and can impose consecutive fines or penalties for these, then does each penalized act count as its own case? If you wish to appeal, does each penalty become its own court case that you then have to fight? 

Because that sure seems like an excellent way to  big down people you simply don't like, even if you lose every case. It also sounds like a fantastic reason to fight this bill, and a major deviation from previous proposals. 

The DPP proposal also: 
- limits the existing 'document access rights' to previous judicial interpretations of the scope of the legislature's power (the constitutional court does outline the limits of the legislature's investigative powers, you can read it for yourself)

The KMT law: 
- expands the legislature's ability to subpoena "government agencies, military units, legal persons, groups, relevant persons in society"
- such power constitutionally belongs to the Control Yuan

This too checks out: the new bill does, from my non-lawyer perspective (again, not a lawyer, don't come at me), violate constitutional interpretation #585 above. It does overlap with the Control Yuan's power, and it's no surprise that now the KMT, which pretends to care ever so much about Sun Yat-sen's vision for the ROC government, is now discussing abolishing the Control Yuan.

The Control Yuan has also issued a statement. From Focus Taiwan

In response to the passage of the amendments, the Control Yuan issued a statement stressing that investigative powers are exclusively exercised by the Control Yuan under the Constitution and the expansion of the Legislature's powers violates the separation of powers.

The Control Yuan therefore cannot accept the decision, it said, urging the public to take the issue seriously.

You can read the statement in Mandarin via this tweet.

The KMT has tried to quell rumors that this new law can be used to subpoena just about anyone it wants and then punish them based on, well, vibes. However, that's not what the law actually says -- "relevant persons", "legal persons" -- these basically mean anyone. If you think they mean only government officials, you've gravely misunderstood what has just passed.


The KMT has also tried to insist this is an issue of "balance of power", but it's not really: I haven't heard many people say that the legislative reform is entirely unnecessary. As we can see from the DPP"s 2012 proposal, they're not against it either. The KMT would sorely like you to believe that the DPP simply abhors reform, and wants to continue with its corrupt, violent and dissolute ways, and so doesn't want the legislature to have any real power. But if that were so, why did they previously propose reforms? It's simply not true. 

And as for being corrupt and violent, if you want to compare parties here, I suggest you look at the entire history of the White Terror and tell me which party has inflicted more corruption and violence on Taiwan. Because the party that created a bunch of nationalized industries, appointed their nepo babies and crony mafia buddies to ineptly run them as thinly-disguised money funnels, and then committed decades of mass murder when the people protested it is perhaps the more corrupt and violent party, no?

In fact, the legislator who suffered the worst injuries was Puma Shen of the DPP, and at the protests outside all I see is peaceful demonstrators and highly-organized volunteers and civil society groups. What violence, exactly? 

Does this look violent to you?

According to interpretation #585 above, the legislature does have investigative powers as they relate to its functioning, and which do not overlap with those of the Control Yuan. I personally don't have a fundamental problem with formalizing those powers, as long as they are within the scope of current law and the constitution. 

This is...not that. 

In fact, until recently, I didn't really have an opinion on whether the Control Yuan should continue to exist, but now, the alternative seems far worse. This isn't a balance of powers thing, this simply gives a lot more power to one branch of government. 

Parts of it are, as Frozen Garlic points out, almost certainly unconstitutional. The legislature doesn't have the power to compel the executive branch, so they certainly cannot force the president in for a 'state of the union' followed by questioning. In fact, if they do so, can they then decide that the president is not answering those questions well enough and thus can be held 'in contempt'? Is this an attempt at an end-run around the difficulty in impeaching a president under the ROC system?

I don't entirely agree with Frozen Garlic's assessment -- the existence of the Control Yuan and the exceedingly broad writing of the legislation, especially allowing the legislature to decide what is and is not "contempt" or "counter-questioning" make me extremely wary of the whole thing. But he is right about the balance of power issue, and he's right that if substantive discussion had actually taken place, these issues could have been ironed out. 

He is right, however, that there are a lot of unconstitutional elements of this new legislation. It will surely be challenged on those grounds and much of it will, at least in my estimation, be struck down.

As we can see, the DPP is open to legislative reform. They once proposed it! If their proposals had been given any time at all in these 'discussions', if the bill had been examined more deeply in committee, and if the final version being voted on were more available to legislators and the public alike, perhaps all of thise could have been avoided. 

To be honest, if the DPP had tried to pass a law like this, including the broadly-written clauses that give the legislature essentially White Terror-like powers to go after their political opponents, I would have protested it then, too. Even if I had to do it shoulder-to-shoulder with KMT voters.

So the final question remains: clearly the KMT and TPP wanted this to be a public fight. But why? They must have known that this would arouse such massive discontent, that the outcry would be Sunflower-level huge. They know that while their milkshakes don't bring the protesters to the yard, the DPP can and does.

So why bring that on themselves?

Again, this is an excellent question.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Why are Taiwan's emergency rooms overflowing?


The photo isn't really related to the post; I took it in Japan last year. But I like the visual concept
A friend’s husband was recently in a serious accident.

"Well, fortunately we're in Taiwan," you might think, "so he'll get a stay in the hospital and effective treatment, and it won't cost much."  After all, Taiwan’s accessible, affordable healthcare is consistently well-ranked. The Taiwanese public seems to agree: in general, satisfaction with the system reaches heights that most Western nations could only dream of, reaching almost 90% in 2019. All of this is possible through far less government expenditure than in most other nations, including the US – just 6.6% of GDP. Despite this, you'd only be partially right.

My friend’s husband will indeed get affordable treatment. However, he ended up spending two days and two nights in the emergency room, in critical condition, before he was allocated a hospital bed. And his condition was -- is -- so serious that he'd been put at the front of the queue to get that bed at all! My friend had some very complicated feelings about this, noting that others had been in the ER for even longer. Some would be waiting for a bed for up to a week. 

It's not news that Taiwan has a hospital bed shortage. News outlets have been reporting on it for at least a year. A physician who spoke to United Daily News earlier this year estimated that 10-20% of hospital wards have closed. In 2023, CommonWealth reported that emergency room stays lasting more than a night had tripled, and the wait for hospital beds had doubled. Around the same time, TaiwanPlus pointed to Taipei’s Mackay Memorial Hospital closing 200 beds.

How does a system that was founded on the idea of streamlined access, and informed by research on the benefits and drawbacks of systems in other countries, end up with such a massive bed shortage, and emergency room visits that, in some cases, are as long as typical hospital stays?

The surface-level cause is clear: insufficient nursing staff to attend to the patients who would usually occupy those rooms. Nurses are quitting in droves, they say, resulting in crisis-level turnover. Taiwan regulates the nurse-to-patient ratio at approximately 1:9, with higher patient loads during the day and lower ones at night. A shortage of nurses, therefore, translates directly into insufficient beds.  

The reasons for this mass exodus are as predictable as they are insidious: as with female-dominated professions in general, nurses in Taiwan are overworked and underpaid. Taiwanese nurses are frequently asked to do overtime and have trouble taking time off, but even experienced ones earn on average just $46,000-$55,000NT per month. Although Taiwan graduates more nurses than it needs, so many quit the profession out of frustration, exhaustion or both that new graduates aren’t stemming the shortage. Despite a surfeit of students studying nursing, Taiwan is almost always several thousand nurses short of what it needs for its hospitals to function at capacity. Taiwan has approximately 310,000 registered nurses, but only about 60% are currently working.

The good thing about obvious problems, one would think, is that they tend to come with obvious solutions. Offer better working conditions with less overtime for more pay, and all of those nursing students will remain nurses. Despite this blindingly obvious fix to a problem that should have never existed in the first place, the media, the government and hospital leadership all seem to be giving themselves enemas with their own heads. 

Initially, the government threw money at the problem without taking concrete steps to ensure nurses were paid well to work reasonable hours. Billions were given to hospitals through the 2010s to address the shortage; slightly less than half of those hospitals hired more nurses or increased pay. Many did nothing, or decreased their nursing staff.   Last year, the government also announced plans to ease the examination requirements for new nurses. While allowing nurses who would have otherwise failed the exam to practice seems likely to lower-quality care, the bigger issue is that it doesn't solve the core problem: bringing in more nurses won't stop the hemorrhaging on the other end. If nurses are not paid well to work reasonable hours, even potentially less-skilled ones will eventually quit.

More recently, the government has introduced new rules that increase the nurse-to-patient ratio and overall offer night shift bonuses. Of course, higher patient loads only increase stress on nurses, and bonuses to keep nurses working to their physical breaking points do nothing to address the overwork causing them to quit in the first place. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Different levels of hospitals can offer different bonuses to nurses; unsurprisingly, district hospitals, where nurses have the highest patient load, would offer the lowest bonuses.

As one might predict, nurses aren’t keen on the scheme. Nearly 57% “reject” it, saying it won’t alleviate the shortage, isn’t fair to day nurses, and will make scheduling shifts even more difficult. 

Apparently “pay nurses fair wages to work reasonable hours” is simply too difficult for those in power to comprehend.

Taiwanese media isn’t helping much to report on the issue. UDN mentions overwork, but doesn’t discuss improved pay and promotion schemes. Instead, it examines the enrollment quota for nursing students and recommends improving safety measures, neither of which are in the same galaxy as the real problem. In the Liberty Times, the head of the Yunlin branch of National Taiwan University Hospital suggests streamlining nurses’ work to make it more efficient and less repetitive. While this isn’t a bad idea, it’s also, still, not the problem

Chi Shu-ching of the Taiwan Union of Nurses Association said recently that there is "no one policy that will replenish the ranks [of nurses] straightaway", but that's not entirely true. Though it will also take some time, the obvious solution of paying nurses more to work reasonable hours will be the fastest possible way to convince nursing students not to quit their programs, and registered nurses to stay or return to the field. The government keeps setting aside funds for other initiatives and incentives, so clearly it's willing to throw money at the problem. How about throwing some of that money at nurse remuneration, and not just in exchange for more work? In other words, everyone seems to know "why" Taiwan has a nursing shortage that seems more entrenched and unsolvable each year, but few really seem to understand why.

Or perhaps they do, but they can’t bring themselves to pay women a fair wage for reasonable hours of professional work. Until this changes, Taiwan may well not live up to its global reputation for accessible, prompt healthcare.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

One more time at the legislature, with feeling

I don't have time to make this pretty, so let's talk about what's happening at the Legislative Yuan right now. 

After adjourning on Friday, not having passed the most controversial aspect of the legislative reform bill -- the "contempt of the Legslature" clause (clause? I don't have time to check) -- lawmakers were to re-convene today to finish discussing it.

"Contempt of the Legislature", if passed, would allow the legislature to drag just about anyone they want in for question-and-answer sessions, and they could be sent to court if the legislators don't like their answers. This is meant to criminalize lying to the legislature, concealing evidence, procrastinating or refusing to appear -- which seems reasonable, but isn't. More on that below, or just read my last post, or whatever you want in English. I probably won't cover it in full in this post. 

Today, thousands gathered at the Legislative Yuan to protest the bill yet again. Miao Poya (I mention her here and here) spoke to a crowd of about 3,000 this afternoon. By the time I arrived in the late afternoon, the crowd was clearly bigger than that, though I can't begin to estimate. It had gone well past the large tent cover set up in front of the main stage and was starting to spill onto Zhongshan Road. 

My friend's photo:

When I arrived, police buses ran down what I believe is Jinan Road (I didn't really check), and you could see people streaming toward the venue. I haven't seen a police presence like that in years, nor a protest big enough to warrant one. (Arguably no protest warrants one, but...discussion for another day). 

I saw a lot of old-school protest imagery: sunflowers, for the Sunflower Movement, the ubiquitous black t-shirts, teal-colored stickers, headbands that said "if the KMT doesn't fall, Taiwan won't be good" (國民黨不倒,台灣不會好 -- it sounds better in Mandarin) which might be new, or might have been dug out of retirement by former protesters. There were even pro-Hong Kong flags as well as several rainbow flags from the marriage equality rallies.

People were quite literally grabbing whatever they had at home from the past to join this protest. I'm sure once the stickers and t-shirts and bandannas and banners become available, there will be a cohesive design to it all, but remember, all the left-of-center protests of the past -- some labor protests excepted -- seem to follow a similar design language. It all works together. It's cohesive, and gives the element that in Taiwan, all of us with our various causes come out to support each other.

I say "us", but I really mean them. I can go, and chant, and stand in the rain, but I'm not Taiwanese. I'm there to support, I don't know what else I can do. Regardless, I love to see it. 

In fact, one of the speakers while I was there directly referenced Hong Kong, likening this bill and the method being used to pass it to the undemocratic processes that are now the norm in Hong Kong ever since the protests were quashed and pro-Beijing elements (I'd call them fascists but hey) took over. 

Of course, being a Taiwanese protest, there were chants calling to send back the bill, "Go Taiwan!" and "Go democracy!" (台灣加油,民主加油), "oppose the black box" (the tactics being used to pass the bill without anyone knowing what's in it is locally referred to as "black box" politics), "No discussion, no democracy" and at least one call for Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), the former Sunflower leader who is now colluding with pro-China elements and their assorted simps, to step down. I can't think of anyone whom the activist community reviles more today than that man.

Funeral-like flowers for the KMT:

While there, a speaker rallied the crowd by saying they'd grown to 12,000. I don't know if that's true -- upper estimates put it at 8,000 -- but it was quite a sight regardless, not something we've seen much of during Tsai's tenure and the DPP's legislative majority. Tsai also left office with a surprisingly high favorability rating, for Taiwan.

That could be because the DPP's general platforms -- with some imperfections -- are closer to the general consensus in Taiwan. It could be because the DPP legislature more or less did a competent job. It could be because KMT supporters simply lack the vim and vigor of sustained activism and protest. Most KMT protests seem to be oldsters bussed in and given a free lunchbox. 

These protesters were...not that. They are young, mostly, and they are angry. They remind me of the Sunflowers. If this is Taiwan's Gen Z, then the kids are going to be alright. 

Back to the protest: partway through my time in the crowd, it started pouring. People handed out free ponchos. I was given one, but got soaked anyway. Speakers asked the crowd to move forward as much as possible to get more people under the cover, and to use ponchos rather than umbrellas, which is smart in a crowd. People came through not long after to distribute drinking water. 

I love to see that sort of cooperative action in protests and movements. 

The rain only got worse, but here's the thing: not many people left. Of course, in any protest, especially one that spans hours, people will come and go over time. But I didn't see any substantial number of empty seats even when it really started to drench the crowd. Thunder boomed, but people stayed. Someone handed out a bunch of signs run on a printer and slipped into plastic covers. 

On the way to the protest I talked to an older man trying to park his bike. He said he was outside to support the Sunflowers a decade ago, and he's back again to stand up for democracy now. His daughter, he said, was already in the crowd. 

While we were getting utterly rain-blasted, I traded sorrowful looks with the woman next to me. Without prompting, she said, "this is democracy". She did not leave. Neither did I. 

I'm telling you, the kids are gonna be alright. 

My phone got soaked -- it currently won't charge with a cable -- my leather bag got soaked, my pants got soaked, my shoes got soaked. The ground beneath our feet turned into one massive puddle. Still, people stayed, I went to put my phone back in my bag, wet despite being under my ill-fitting poncho. A young man (early 20s?) used his plastic-covered sign to keep the rain off. 

At about 7pm, the session seemed to be still ongoing, with the DPP playing the old Sunflower anthem Island Sunrise. The KMT started raising patches of the ROC flag (which has the KMT emblem on it). 

I left when I started to genuinely worry about my phone, and was shivering from being soaked. I also happen to be sunburned from yesterday's inauguration, which is not a great combination. The woman who'd said "this is democracy" urged me to go, saying "health comes first" and there will be other chances to protest. 

At about 8pm, a friend of mine messaged me a bunch of photos -- one his, one from the protest's Line group -- showing the protest had spilled out into Zhongshan Road.  A verbal estimate put the crowd at over 15,000.

Here's the Line group photo:

So what's wrong with the bill? 

First, there's what it could mean. From Michelle Kuo on Twitter

China publishes a list of Taiwan independence activists, those legislators can summon them to be questioned. The [activists] can be fined from 20,000 NTD to NTD 200,000. This is written in article 25, the amendment they just passed. And that completely bypassed committee review.


From Chen Yen-han

The bill would give the LY power to summon essentially anyone and make them answer questions.

This is not necessarily bad. What is bad are the proposed criminal penalties when the LY deems someone’s answer a refusal or falsehood.

This would give a partisan coalition a monopoly on truth, which is very bad.

A minister who refuses to divulge classified information could, under the provisions of this bill, be punished.

There is at least one current MLY who leaked sensitive info on Taiwan’s defense programs.

You should also read this entire thread from Michael Turton. Here's a snippet:

We know what tactics they will follow because they've done that before. One way they will use this power is to subpoena local DPP politicians to again smear them and even better, toss a few in the clink...

The KMT can simply refuse to act on taiwan's defense by claiming their too busy with internal investigations. This will tie up the legislature for years. Further...they will investigate government ministers and bureaucrats hoping not only to interfere with the functions of government, but to bring to light information on government connections with other government and on defense and weapons programs....The subpoena powers can be used against Ordinary People. Members of the Foreign Press should recall the era of Visa denials of journalists. Under this law there's nothing to stop the legislature from subpeona-ing a foreign journalist whose coverage they do not like.

There's also a great Youtube video with English subtitles from Puma Shen, the activist and legislator who was pushed off a table and fell on his head on Friday.

 One of the biggest problems is that nobody really knows what's in the bill, as a last-minute version cobbled together from all proposed versions was not read out in full and not made available to legislators in time for the vote. This was apparently done by KMT caucus whip (and criminal, and sex pest) Fu Kun-chi, speaker Han Kuo-yu, and former Sunflower and New Power Party founder-turned-TPP supporter Huang Kuo-chang, who right now might be the most reviled of the three. Remember, he was once on the same side as the people out there protesting tonight, and now he's working with his former enemies and enemy-adjacent randos. (No, I will not attempt to phrase that more elegantly). 

Secondly, the KMT and TPP keep insisting that "substantive discussion" of the bill has taken place, and thus have ushered it to a vote. (There are also a bunch of infrastructure bills to be discussed, and nobody's talking about what might or might not be in those, so that's not good either). 

This is absolutely a lie, spearheaded by Huang Kuo-chang. The DPP was intentionally kept from participating in said 'substantive discussion', their own proposals dismissed before they could even be considered. Essentially, the KMT and TPP are railroading everything and calling it "democracy" because they have a thin majority coalition. 

The votes themselves are being done by a 'show of hands' rather than individual votes with names recorded. While this is technically a legal mechanism for voting, as far as I know, it's not typical and hasn't been used in Taiwan in decades. The KMT/TPP would insist that it's necessary as the DPP keeps blocking a more traditional vote. Apparently, the "show of hands" vote tallies keep getting messed up, which is extremely suspicious and unnerving. 

I'm not the only one who is likening this to Sunflowers 2.0 -- they protested black box politics too -- and the White Terror. And if something in Taiwan reminds you of the White Terror, well, that should be terrifying. 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Legislature erupts in chaos, the KMT still sucks, and the spark of fresh resistance

Lawmaker and activist Puma Shen gets pushed off a rostrum head-first by KMT opponents

First, I just want to acknowledge that I haven't been blogging very much. I know. I've had other writing projects, but beyond that work is both a challenge and a treadmill. By that I mean it both requires creative energy (fantastic) but also feels a bit insurmountable (not fantastic). At least I'm happy with where I am career-wise, which I wouldn't have said six months ago. 

I felt a bit knocked out of my blogging stupor on Friday, when a fight broke out in the Legislative Yuan over a proposed bill to expand the powers of said legislature. Not only is the bill deeply undemocratic, but the method by which the majority coalition -- they wouldn't call themselves a coalition, but they effectively are one -- attempted to pass it. 

The sum of it: the KMT, with the TPP as their lapdogs, are trying to pass a bill that would require the president to give an address before the Legislature every year, and be subject to immediate questioning after. More chillingly, it would expand the legislature's ability to conduct investigations -- they already have some authority, such as access to documents -- and introduce the concept of "contempt of the Legislature" which would work like this 

Those who refuse a demand by the Legislature or delay in responding, conceal information, or provide false statements to the Legislature during an investigation, inquiry, or hearing or when it reviews documents can be fined or, if serious, seen as "contempt of the legislature," according to the KMT lawmakers' bill. 

This would be a criminal offense, and refusing to appear or accused of lying to the Legislature would be punishable by fines or jail time. Those required to comply would not only be government entities, but private ones as well. 

The issues, legal scholars and others note, is that it's not clear where that power begins and ends. For example

Lin Chih-chieh (林志潔), a legal professor and a DPP legislative candidate in the January election, warned at a public hearing that if the bills passed, the Legislative Yuan would be able to demand the presence of, for example, TSMC founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) and accuse him of contempt of the Legislature if he refused to attend.

The Legislature could also ask TSMC or other enterprises to provide sensitive information related to their commercial secrets, Lin argued.

(I'm quoting at length from Focus Taiwan as their articles don't remain publicly available for long.)

What's more, what constitutes "lying", "delay in responding" or "concealing information" is not particularly clear. How it will be determined that someone called to testify has done these things is not, as far as I know, defined in any known way. The problem here should be obvious: with no clear, impartial mechanism to determine what constitutes a delay, a lie or concealment, who's to say what might be called, for example, a "lie".  Anyone can insist anyone testifying has "lied", threatening criminal punishment, and it's extremely unclear how that power might be wielded fairly. 

People whose testimony (or lack thereof) dissatisfies legislators -- again, this whole thing should chill you to the bone -- can be sent to court 'to impose a sentence' (it's unclear whether the court can overturn the legislators' decision). In other words

Furthermore, how contempt of the Legislature is determined, by whom, and the criminal elements of contempt of the Legislature are not explicitly stated in the KMT proposal. Critics believe that if the legislator does not like the content of the official's answer to the question, does not like their attitude, or "interrupts" the official who is answering the legislator's question...under a loose determination, it may be possible that legislators will use their own subjective desires to imprison the official under questioning through court resolutions.
(Translated from Initium Media)

Does this remind you of any other period in Taiwan's history? Perhaps a period of several decades, under which the government could pull you in for questioning and jail you if they didn't like your answers, using ill-defined powers with essentially no oversight? 

I don't think that the Legislative Yuan is going to start mass murdering dissenters or anything like that, but if this doesn't give you Big White Terror should.

This lack of clarity seems very much by design: the bill bypassed a line-by-line reading as well as an article-by-article discussion, and according to Initium Media, all versions of the bill from the KMT and TPP were sent to committee while all DPP versions and proposals were blocked. Laws in Taiwan have a period of discussion (sometimes called 'freezing') where parties are meant to negotiate and come to a consensus on new legislation, which is between one and four months -- four months is the norm, but the 'freezing' of some crucial legislation may be shorter. In that period, the KMT refused to engage in any substantive negotiation or discussion with the DPP on this bill.

Because there was no line-by-line reading, and all versions were sent to committee (if I'm reading this correctly), it's unclear which version would have passed the vote on Friday. Not all versions are available publicly, in fact, I'm not even sure if the legislators themselves know what's in the bill. This is very wrong: in general, new legislation under consideration should be publicly available, discussed in detail by lawmakers, and the final version that goes to a vote known. 

It's also worrying that how the bill would play out against previous Constitutional Court rulings, specifically ruling #585, which states that the Legislative Yuan has the power to conduct investigations related to its own functioning but not beyond that: 

Under the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, the scope of the targets or matters subject to the Legislative Yuan’s investigative power does not grow unchecked. The matters to be investigated by the Legislative Yuan must be substantially related to the exercise of its powers under the Constitution. And, in addition, whenever a matter is related to the independent exercise of powers by an organ of the State that is guaranteed by the Constitution, the Legislative Yuan may not extend its investigative power to such a matter.

This interpretation already gives the Legislative Yuan the power to 'compel' testimony on matters under its jurisdiction, but it's unclear if attaching criminal penalties to this would be within the scope of the interpretation. In addition, unlike other countries that have contempt of Congress or Parliament laws, Taiwan already has an investigative body, the Control Yuan.

This body is in charge of impeachment, censure and audit. If they already have the power to investigate government officials, why exactly does the Legislative Yuan also need this power? Indeed, according to Interpretation #585 above, to take that power might well interfere with the "independent exercise" of the Control Yuan, making it unconstitutional. 

Of course, we don't know exactly which powers this will grand the Legislature and whether they step on the Control Yuan's toes, because we don't know what's in the bill! Even the Taipei Bar Association has weighed in with concerns about the bill. It's Bad News Bears, you guys, 

It's pretty clear that the goal of the legislators is to increase their own power during a term when the KMT has a legislative plurality, but the DPP has the presidency. It's not about punishing those who lie -- KMT legislators lie all the time -- and not really about filling a much-needed gap in the government's ability to function, as there's an investigative body that already does this. In other words, it's exactly what critics have called it: a power grab.

If this seems reminiscent to you of some of the black box politics characteristic of the Ma Ying-jeou era, that's because it is. The same sort of 'let's push this through and not make it entirely clear what the legislation entails' is the exact sort of authoritarian bullshit attitude that helped spark the Sunflower Movement in 2014. While the details differ, broadly speaking, the strategy feels quite similar to the attempted passage of the Cross-Strait Services and Trade Agreement (CSSTA or 服貿) in that year. 

With the KMT more or less back in power in the Legislative Yuan, it's not surprising that they are exactly who they've always been. 

Friday was voting day for the bill, and anyone could have predicted that fights over it would break out in the Legislature. Again according to Initium Media, the clause requiring the president to address the Legislative Yuan and then answer questions (which is somewhat unprecedented in ROC history) was passed by a show of hands -- meaning the names of those voting for and against were not recorded as is custom -- but due to the physical altercations, all other parts of the bill have yet to be dealt with. 

I'm not sure exactly why, but the violence in the Legislative Yuan on Friday somehow seemed more serious, or touched a deeper nerve, than scuffles I've read about previously. To me, the three most notable instances of scuffles or outright violence were DPP Legislator Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文) grabbing the documents and sprinting out of the legislative chamber with them, which, to be clear, that guy rules.

Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) of the DPP tackled the KMT's Chen Ching-hui (陳菁徽) while both were on the podium; Chung claims he slipped on a piece of paper, and from the video evidence, that seems likely. Notably, in some reports, pan-blue mouthpiece TVBS, despite offering a pretty awesome metal-lite background to the footage, seems to have edited out the part where Chung fell. 

Finally, DPP Legislator, democracy activist and founder of Doublethink Lab Puma Shen (沈伯洋) was  pushed off the rostrum and landed on his head. Shen was hospitalized along with five other lawmakers, though his condition at the time appeared to be the most severe. 

As of today, Shen appears to be in recovery -- or at least, he's conscious -- telling the public that the TPP's three-point statement on the issue is, essentially, three lies, and that they are the ones in "contempt of the Legislature". 

According to CNA, the TPP claims that only some reforms were on the agenda for that day, and the "contempt of the Legislature" was not. I'm honestly unclear on this point, but Shen claims it's wrong. Second, the TPP claims that the DPP either "didn't understand" the timing of the discussions, or put forward excessive motions to adjourn so no discussions could take place. Shen counters that in truth, the DPP called for adjournments because the KMT and TPP wouldn't discuss the bill, and accuses them of confiscating or dismissing DPP proposals, so what could the DPP do but resist the process? Finally, the TPP claimed that the 'show of hands' method of voting is a legal and recognized method. Shen points out that the vote counts are still unclear as a result -- some of them don't match up -- and as the tools to register names of who voted for what were available, intentionally not using them is not a good method. 

For anyone thinking "well that's just majority party strategy", the DPP as far as I can remember never did this to the KMT in eight years of having control.

In the aftermath, the DPP's Chung has apologized to Chen (the woman who was tackled), and clarified that he was also in pain from the fall. The KMT, as far as I can tell, has not apologized for injuring Shen or anyone else, with caucus whip Fu Kun-chi daring the DPP to sue the KMT over their actions

Not to get too biased or anything, but that corrupt sex pest really is a massive wet sack of steamy garbage juice.

Fu has also called the DPP "thuggish", despite arguably the worst injury being sustained by a DPP legislator. That's to be expected, though, the KMT loves characterizing the DPP as ignorant rednecks who could not possibly wield power with the grace and authority of the educated KMT. It's a also a time-honored tactic around the world used to discredit activist movements. Want to turn the public against a group? Call them thugs!

Of course, the DPP weren't the ones who terrorized Taiwan for decades under the White Terror and Martial Law dictatorship like thugs.

Anyway, calling anyone "thuggish" is pretty rich coming from, yet again, a corrupt sex pest

Speaking of the old dictatorship, the KMT also accused the DPP of being "used to monopolizing power". Hmm, let's review: which party imposed decades of Martial Law so heinous that it made the Japanese colonial era look like a paradise in comparison? Sent dissidents to Green Island, tortured them and killed them, claiming they were all "communists" (not all were, and regardless it shouldn't have been a crime in the first place)? Engaged in mass killing sprees after 228? Let the dictator's son run the secret police, deciding more or less on personal whims who lived and who died? 

Which party ruled Taiwan with violence for so long, and so horribly, that the people started organizing to force it to end? Which party's crimes against the people are now memorialized in prisons-turned-museums on Green Island and in New Taipei? Was that the DPP?

Which party, out of approximately thirty years of democratization, has held a majority in the Legislature for twenty of them (so, about two-thirds), even when the opposition had the presidency? Was that the DPP? Which party engaged in legislative chicanery so preposterous that a bunch of students occupied thei chamber and rallied many, if not most, Taiwanese to their cause? Which party's president is leaving office with unprecedented popularity, as opposed to her KMT predecessor who wishes he could have hit double digits?

So, which party again can we perhaps accuse of trying to monopolize power? Because it sure as hell doesn't look like the DPP.

With the inauguration tomorrow and fresh deliberations over the bill set for the day after, it's unclear what's next. I have noticed, though, that with the old KMT tactics of black-boxing their trash and calling the DPP "thuggish" for resisting, that perhaps a spark of that old civil disobedience is coming back. 

It's not that protests simply stopped after Tsai took office. There's been a Panay Kusui-led protest encampment in 228 Park for a very long time, focused on Indigenous land rights. There's a laor protest more or less every year, though they don't have much staying power. There were the marriage equality rallies. 

But it sure does feel like civil society has gone somewhat quiet in these years. I don't think I've attended a protest/rally since marriage equality (though, to be clear, my health took a tumble during the pandemic as my career picked up, so often I just haven't got the time). Many have commented that younger Taiwanese, now almost a generation removed from the Wild Strawberries and Sunflowers, and two generations from the Wild Lilies, don't seem to have that same activist spirit, aren't worried about China (and thus care less about the KMT's foreign policy of basically selling out Taiwan) or aren't the angry young protesters who helped bring Tsai to power in 2016 -- in fact, they're not necessarily enamored with the DPP at all

On the one hand, I've kind of noticed this, too. The desire to go out there and fight for something better hasn't seemed as alive of late. Perhaps it's because President Tsai, unlike her predecessor, actually did a good job leading Taiwan -- and I do think, with some criticisms and imperfections, that she did. Perhaps they're just used to the DPP being 'in power', and the people with the power are usually not the ones that inspire the youth. 

But now KMT avarice is laid bare once again, which was always going to happen once they were given national-level power again. I'm not sure why so many people didn't see it coming, and while it's certainly not a good thing, maybe the old fire will come back. Maybe the next generation will see once again what utter rapacious dipshits their parents voted for, and stand for something better. 

Spontaneous protests broke out outside the Legislative Yuan on Friday night, and on Saturday Internet celebrity and commentator Four-Pronged Cat (四叉貓), known for infiltrating and subverting KMT protests, held a "pilgrimage" to the street below the home of KMT legislator Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯). She's the one who pulled out a musical instrument during the fighting and played the ROC national anthem -- honestly, don't ask. Apparently, people passing Hsu's house deemed to be protesters had been interrogated or otherwise documented by police, which frankly feels quite undemocratic. For a small-scale action, it's still impressive that, apparently, hundreds of people showed up. 

These are small numbers by the Taiwan protest standards I'm used to, but it feels like a step in the right direction as we head into the unknown territory of a third-term DPP presidency, and a KMT-led legislature that seems more cupidinous than ever. We're going to need that vim and vigor from everyone, not just Gen Z Taiwanese, to do something about it.