What you need to know
Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan recently decided to grant the press further access to promote transparency after decades of confidential consultative discussion. The newly elected president of the Legislative Yuan, Su Jia-chyuan, says that it will continue to improve openness to meet public expectations.
Translated and compiled by Yuan-ling Liang
Media access promoted as new legislators take office
Su Jia-chyuan, new president of the Legislative Yuan, called together the parties on February 2 and decided to let the media report on the entire cross-party negotiation. Su also states that they will amend the parliament regulation and allow Internet broadcasting of cross-party negotiations in the future to carry out real transparency.
None of the parties opposed the idea, and some legislators even think the entire procedure should be recorded. A legislator from the KMT suggests, to prevent large crowds of reporters, journalists can stay in a conference room that allows recording equipment.
Does Taiwan only conduct under-the-table negotiations?
According to the Global Open Data Index provided by Open Knowledge in 2015, Taiwan ranks first place in governmental data availability in the world. In the legislation category, Taiwan’s legislative data is considered to be highly accessible to the public due to frequent updating, digital access and online availability.
However, during the Sunflower Student Movement in 2014, people burst into anger as legislators failed to provide clear information on the examination of service trade agreements with China. Students and civic groups protested in front of the Legislative Yuan to put stress on the government.
Legislators usually consult among political parties to reach an agreement on bills and resolutions even after going through the entire legal process. The content of the resolutions can still be changed after discussion. This leads to transparency in the Legislative Yuan being a constant issue although the entire procedure is documented and accessible online.
Government transparency in other countries?
In 2012, the Opening Parliament Organization was formed with the intention to help connect the world’s civic organizations engaged in monitoring, supporting and opening up their countries’ parliaments and legislative institutions. Two of Taiwan’s NGOs, Citizen Congress Watch and G0V, are both its supporting members.
The organization then established the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, sharing principles on openness, transparency and accessibility of parliaments supported by more than 140 organizations from over 75 countries. According to the declaration, parliaments should provide access to information regarding its work through multiple channels, ensure physical access, guarantee media access, and provide live and on-demand broadcasts and streaming.
The Global Open Data Index 2015 provided by Open Knowledge also shows the legislations are fully open in the UK and US, which is similar to Taiwan. As for other Asian countries, South Korea’s database is considered not available in bulk, while Singapore and Japan’s data are not machine readable (which means the data isn’t digital and can’t be processed or parsed easily by a computer). Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s legislation is not openly licensed, meaning its data can’t be freely used, reused or redistributed.
Since these transparency issues were also widely discussed in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations last year, the EU Commission put much effort in sharing information with members of the European Parliament online to “ensure democratic scrutiny of the negotiations and informed debate based on facts.”
As the French trade minister, Mathias Fekl, comments on the transparency issue, if the openness doesn’t improve, “it will show that there is no will to achieve mutually beneficial negotiations."
Edited by Olivia Yang