Chen Guangcheng: Taiwan's Parliamentary Brawls a Small Price to Pay for Democracy

Says the dissident: "It's still better to have shoving in the legislature than to have tanks rolling through the streets."
taiwanbrawlbanner.jpgTaiwan's Parliament is famous for its regular shoving matches. (Nicky Loh/Reuters)

A brawl broke out in Taiwan's parliament yesterday. Members of Taiwan's main political parties wrestled for the podium  as they fought over a tax bill; men and women shoved, yelled, and pulled each other's hair. At least one lawmaker was bitten and another badly scratched. In a nearby room, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who has recently made headlines for his controversial departure from New York University, was praising Taiwan's democracy.

Later, after hearing about the fight, Chen said such fighting was just a natural part of a young democracy's growth. "It's still better to have shoving in the legislature than to have tanks rolling in the streets," he told the Wall Street Journal, referring to Beijing's violent military crackdown on protesters in 1989.

Taiwan's political system is often cited as either a model for democratization in mainland China or proof that Chinese society is not somehow inherently unfit for representative government. After decades of one-party rule by the Kuomintang, the nationalists who were defeated by the communist forces on the mainland, Taiwan eased into direct elections in the late 1980s and 1990s. (Beijing refers to Taiwan as a "renegade province" and pledges to unify it with the mainland by force if necessary.)

The Democracy ReportSince then, Taiwan has developed one of the active citizenries in East Asia and the world. Voter turnout is consistently high, around 75 percent, with overseas Taiwanese often flying back to vote in presidential elections. And Taiwan's media is among the freest in Asia. The cost, it seems, is that politicians can get a little out of hand. Taiwan's scrappy Legislative Yuan often features on lists of the world's best parliament brawls.

In the end, the ruling party passed its revision of a capital gains tax on stock transactions. (Now it only applies to transactions of over one billion New Taiwan dollars, or $33 million.) Not everyone was happy, but then again maybe this what democracy looks like.

Lily Kuo is a reporter at Quartz covering emerging markets.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in China

Just In