Taiwan lawmaker attacks legislature with tear gas

Taiwanese author-turned-legislator Li Ao became the island's own Guy Fawkes yesterday - but instead of trying to blow up the legislature, he doused it in tear gas.

And unlike the original 17th century conspirator, who wanted to destroy Britain's parliament and assassinate its king, Mr Li's 'plot' was aimed at stopping the island's purchase of US arms.

Protected by a gas mask like the mask worn by the futuristic Guy Fawkes character in the movie V For Vendetta and brandishing an electric prod, the 71-year-old independent legislator sprayed the gas at a meeting of the legislature's procedures committee after asking permission to address the committee.

Assuming Mr Li wanted to speak against the opposition Kuomintang over its alleged improper acquisition of assets, committee chairman Tsai Chi-fang, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, granted the request.

But when he took the podium, Mr Li pulled out the mask and tear gas, to the laughter of his colleagues.

'Don't laugh. What do you think this is? It is a gas mask. Wait until [you see] what I take out and then you won't be able to laugh any more,' Mr Li said, waving the yellow gas canister.

'This is tear gas. I don't have any grudge against all of you here. All the ladies present, please go out!'

Mr Li said he was only trying to stop the committee placing the NT$380 billion (HK$88.9 billion) US arms purchase bill onto the agenda for review in future.

But his outcry only sparked more laughter. Some legislators tried to move closer to Mr Li, but he shooed them off. 'Don't try anything. I have an electric prod,' he warned.

He then aimed the canister at a wall behind him and began spraying the gas.

At first legislators continued laughing; some were eating their lunch or sipping tea. But soon they started to feel the effects of the gas and fled from the chamber, covering their faces with handkerchiefs and paper tissues.

KMT legislator Joanna Lei Chien later won support from her colleagues for sending Mr Li to the discipline committee, which will decide how to punish him.

Mr Tsai was forced to suspend the committee meeting for 20 minutes. When it resumed, opposition legislators joined forces to again stop the budget bill.