Protests outside Taiwan’s parliament descended into chaos yesterday as workers angry over a proposed cut to public holidays attacked a lawmaker and threw smoke bombs.
The controversial amendment to the labour law has already sparked a number of rallies and a hunger strike, with protesters accusing new President Tsai Ing-wen of betraying her campaign promises to protect labour rights.
Tsai has seen her popularity plummet since taking office in May as her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government attempts to tackle a raft of domestic issues from gay marriage to pension reform.
Workers would be guaranteed one mandatory day off a week under the revised law, in keeping with existing rules.
They would also be given an additional “rest day” and would be paid a higher rate if they are asked to work on that day.
But seven annual holidays would be scrapped.
Expected parliament voting on the bill prompted more than 100 protesters to clash with police outside the parliament building in Taipei.
They held up banners with “Oppose the cut of seven holidays” scrawled on them and some threw coloured smoke bombs.
Senior DPP official Ker Chien-ming was pushed over, punched and had water splashed on him as he left the legislative complex, local media footage showed.
After Ker was escorted away by police, protesters spat in a shoe they claim was one lost by the legislator in the scuffle, according to local media.
Ker is the DPP caucus whip, who protesters blame for trying to force the bill through parliament.
The DPP condemned yesterday’s violence and called on the police to open investigations.
“Labour groups have the right to express their demands, but violent behaviour like throwing water and beating is not something a democratic society can accept,” it said in a statement.
Tsai and her party rose to power after a landslide victory over the Kuomintang (KMT) in January, campaigning on a platform of progressive policies and improving prospects for young people in Taiwan.
But recent polling by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation showed her popularity had fallen to a record low of 41.1%, compared to nearly 70% when she first took office.
Protests are common in Taiwan, but in recent months they have become more regular and heated over a range of domestic social issues, taking place mostly on the landmark boulevard outside the presidential office and the parliament building.
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