Tour of the Legislative Yuan
To coincide with the Chinese Lunar New Year, the ECCT arranged a special cultural excursion for ECCT members to the Legislative Yuan (LY) of the Republic of China, Taiwan's unicameral parliament. It was the first time that the ECCT had been offered an exclusive visit and tour of the LY. The visit included an introduction to the history of the LY and a guided tour of the LY's buildings, including the chamber hall, where laws are debated and voted on. The visit coincided with the first day of the new legislative session which runs from February until May. When guests entered the gallery of the chamber, they were able to witness democracy in action as it so happened that Premier Lin Chuan and several government ministers were in the chamber at the time to answer questions from legislators. After the tour, members and guests took a short walk to the Sheraton Hotel where they enjoyed an informal lunch with LY Secretary-General Lin Chih-chia.
The tour began with a video presentation, followed by a welcome and introduction by Chang Jing-shun, Deputy Director of the LY's Secretariat. The buildings that house Taiwan's LY were originally used as a school when Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule. They were since converted and have been used to house the LY since 1960. Many of Taiwan's senior politicians have cut their teeth as in the legislature, including former president Chen Shui-bien and current president Tsai Ing-wen. The LY played a transformative role in Taiwan's transition to democracy. This laid the foundation for Taiwan's transition to full democracy when the first universal suffrage presidential election was held in 1995.
Under the ROC's constitution, all bills are subject to review and passage by the LY. Bills are subject to two or three readings, which include examinations by dedicated LY committees, general discussions, presentations by experts and possible revisions before final passage and submission to the president for promulgation. The Executive Yuan (EY) must report all major policy changes to the Legislative Yuan. Ministers are frequently summoned by legislators to the LY to answer questions in this regard. Besides law-making powers, the presidents of the EY, the Control Yuan, the Judicial Yuan and Examination Yuan are nominated by the president but must be approved by the LY.
In his introduction after the video presentation Deputy Director Chang noted that Taiwan stands out as having some of the most highly educated elected representatives and probably the highest proportion of women (43 legislators or 38% of the LY's 113 seats are held by women). According to Chang, 18% of legislators have PhDs, 51% have master's degrees and another 24% have bachelor's degrees.
He went on to talk about the legislature's drive to become more open and transparent. Starting in April last year, LY meetings have been broadcast by private media organisations and starting from the current legislative session, two cable TV channels and two wireless channels have started to broadcast legislative sessions live. He pointed out the channel 123 had been deliberately chosen as one of the channels for the LY broadcasts in reference to 23 January, which is celebrated in Taiwan as World Freedom Day.
After the introduction, guests visited the legislature's library, which was established in 1948 and has a staff of 40. While the library is used predominantly by legislators and staff, scholars and journalists may also apply for permission to gain access to its 900 periodicals, newspapers and extensive databases. After the visit to the library guests were escorted to the gallery of the LY chamber where they witnessed around 20 minutes of question and answer sessions between various legislators and Premier Lin Chuan as well as the minsters of Transportation and Communication, Labour and the Council of Agriculture.