3,000 Protesters Urge Taiwan Reforms
About 3,000 chanting demonstrators converged on the National Assembly building Friday to urge the Taiwanese government to further its political reforms.
They were met by thousands of riot police who cordoned off the main Taipei business district with barbed-wire barricades to prevent the protesters from reaching the assembly building.
But political protest spread into the building when 11 assembly members from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party displayed banners reading “Complete Parliamentary Re-Election” as President Chiang Ching-kuo began to greet the delegates.
The protests were aimed at pressuring the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, to allow elections for all seats in the 948-seat National Assembly, Taiwan’s electoral college, and the 315-seat legislative assembly.
Party leader Chiang ended martial law in Taiwan in July, 38 years after it was imposed as the Nationalist government and about 2 million supporters fled here after losing a civil war to the Communists in mainland China.
Under new security measures passed by the legislative assembly in June, new political parties are permitted, but they must be anti-Communist and back the unification of Taiwan and China. The provision is aimed at discouraging a movement that seeks to keep Taiwan from uniting with China.
That movement is supported by many native Taiwanese, who comprise 85% of the island’s 19.5 million people, although they hold scant political power.
Both the Nationalists and Communists maintain they are the sole legitimate government of China.
The seven-hour street demonstration ended peacefully after opposition assembly members joined the demonstrators for a 1.8-mile march from downtown Taipei to the opposition party headquarters in the north of the capital.
Opposition legislator Hsu Jung-shu said the party would urge Taiwanese to refuse to pay taxes if the ruling party fails to respond to its demand by next May.
Many of the representatives were elected in mainland China about 1949, shortly before the Nationalists fled to Taiwan. According to recent official figures, 218 of the 316 members of the legislature have held their positions for 38 years without re-election.
The Nationalists claim the legislators are legal representatives of their native constituencies and cannot face elections until the Nationalists once again rule the mainland.
Dissidents claim the seats should be up for grabs.
Newspapers here have reported that the Nationalist Party would soon begin allowing some of the aging legislators to retire, thereby opening some seats for election.
Chiang did not seem troubled by the protests and proceeded with a brief greeting to about 1,000 assembly members and officials gathered for the 40th anniversary of the constitution. The 77-year-old president, who suffers from diabetes and has a heart pacemaker, then remained in his wheelchair while National Assembly secretary general Irwine Ho read a five-minute speech for him.
The speech said that change to “improve the composition of the parliament . . . is a matter of necessity,” but added that it could not violate Taiwan’s constitution, which stipulates that the Taiwanese government is the sole legitimate ruler of all China.
Meanwhile, in a show of Nationalist Party strength, about 30,000 people staged a three-hour counterdemonstration a few miles from the assembly building.