Taiwan's Big Brawl

A book is thrown at a group of legislators from Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party as they try to block their counterparts from occupying a podium at parliament in Taipei on July 8, 2010. (Patrick Lin/AFP/Getty Images)


A brawl broke out in Taipei's legislature on Thursday almost as soon as the session began. Scuffles erupted after lawmakers used books, garbage bins, and tea cups to attack one another.

The fight broke out after Wang Jin-pyng of the ruling Nationalist party rejected a bid by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to conduct a detailed debate on a contentious trade pact with China. The agreement includes cutting tariffs on about 800 Chinese goods headed to Taiwan. The Nationalists want to open trade with neighboring China to avoid economic isolation amid the emergence of trading blocs.

The Democratic Progressives, on the other hand, fear political unification with China if the bill is passed.

The law was passed after the brawl and is expected to be approved by next month. After Thursday's fracas, the parliament speaker called a recess until Friday.

Thursday's chaotic scenes recalled past legislative brawls in Taiwan, which began a gradual transition from dictatorship to democracy in 1987 and remains riven by passionate fighting between its two major political blocs. 

In 2004, over a conversation about international arms sales, one Taiwanese lawmaker was hit by a lunch box, and others with rice, meat, vegetables and hard-boiled eggs. Opposition member Chu Fong-chi had food stains on the back of her blouse, and was said to have yelled, "My whole body smells like a lunch box!"

In one celebrated incident in 2007, Taiwanese lawmakers exchanged punches and tried to climb over each other's shoulders for a chance to position around the speaker's podium over a reform bill that is now largely forgotten.

Upon transitioning to democracy in 1987, why did Taiwanese parliamentarian sessions suddenly develop heated discussions and fist fights? This trend seems to be trickling over to neighboring countries too. South Korea is gradually becoming notorious for its brawls in parliament, while India and Pakistan have had incidents of lawmakers hitting one another with furniture, and the occasional bite or two.

Instead of passing bills democratically, which is what democracies do, fights are breaking out in parliaments across Asia. Why do you think this is happening?