Taiwan lawmakers brawl over China trade agreement
Taiwan legislators scuffle as opposition claims latest deal with mainland threatens economy
Agence France-Presse in Taipei
Taiwan's parliament descended into chaos yesterday as a punch-up broke out between lawmakers over a trade agreement with the mainland.
Television footage of the fighting - broadcast live nationwide - showed one legislator being pushed to the ground while others grabbed each other by their collars.
Once notorious for its mass brawls, debates in the Taiwanese parliament have been relatively peaceful in recent years - with a few exceptions, including fights last year over a tax bill and a new nuclear plant.
Yesterday's fresh violence stemmed from a deal between the mainland and Taiwan in June aimed at further opening trade in services between the neighbours.
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has overseen a marked thaw in relations with mainland China since his Kuomintang party came to power in 2008 pledging to strengthen trade and tourism links with the world's second-largest economy.
The mainland has emerged as the island's leading trading partner. Dozens of agreements between the two on everything from transport to earthquake monitoring have been signed.
But members of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, and the smaller, but more radical, Taiwan Solidarity Union, have pledged to stop the latest trade agreement being ratified, claiming it will hurt small service companies and damage the Taiwanese economy.
The brawl broke out after opposition lawmakers stayed overnight in the chamber in a bid to stop the pact being ratified, a filibustering technique commonly used by Taiwanese politicians.
Under the trade pact, the mainland will open 80 of its service sectors to Taiwanese companies, while Taiwan will in turn allow mainland investment in 64 sectors.
The pact is one of the follow-up agreements to the sweeping Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement signed in 2010 to reduce trade barriers between the two sides.
Taiwan has ruled itself for more than six decades since splitting from the mainland following the 1949 civil war.