Brawl in Taiwan parliament as MPs turn militant in debate over military pension cuts

Lawmakers in angry clashes over planned government cuts to veterans pensions which have triggered mass protests 

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 11:12pm

Taiwan legislators brawled in parliament on Friday over proposed reductions to military veterans’ pensions, part of wider cutbacks that have triggered mass protests.

The clashes came as a draft bill proposed by the cabinet earlier this month was deliberated in parliament for the first time, following a protest by military veterans in February.

A former colonel fell while climbing up a wall during the demonstration and later died in hospital.

Legislators shouted, pushed and shoved in the chamber on Friday, with lawmakers from the opposition Kuomintang waving placards demanding President Tsai Ing-wen apologise to the veterans.

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They threw signs emblazoned with the words “bully government”, jumped on tables and tussled with rival legislators from Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party.

KMT lawmakers also called for the governing party legislator Tuan Yi-kang to apologise for calling high-ranking veterans protesting against the reforms “insatiably greedy”.

The backlash over the cuts is a major challenge for President Tsai, who has seen her popularity ratings fall since her election two years ago.

Legislators passed a separate pension reform bill last June that targeted civil servants as the government warned it could no longer pay out on the high-interest deals.

Tsai admitted in a television interview earlier this month that the reforms have “offended many people” but stood by the plan to make the pension system more sustainable.

Taiwan’s pension schemes vary for different occupations and public sector retired personnel typically receive more generous packages than workers from other sectors, which fall under a different labour pension system.

The government has warned that various pension funds could go bankrupt as early as 2020 if the system is not overhauled.

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Among the reforms is the phasing out of a preferential 18 per cent interest on savings for civil servants and military personnel.

Tsai has pushed many controversial reforms – including gay marriage and labour issues – since her election in 2016 when the DPP also gained control of parliament for the first time.

Brawls during parliamentary sessions are common in Taiwan, but are often a show put on by legislators and serious injuries are rare.