TAIPEI (AFP) – Fighting broke out in Taiwan's parliament Tuesday as legislators scuffled and threw coffee during a debate on whether a controversial capital gains tax on share trading should be revised less than a year after it was brought in.
Discussions were brought to a virtual standstill after dozens of lawmakers from the ruling Kuomintang party clashed with opposition legislators as both groups tried to seize the chamber's podium.
TV images broadcast live nationwide showed two angry women legislators scuffling and an opposition parliamentarian spraying coffee at her Kuomintang counterparts. A female legislator from the Kuomintang was also seen bursting into tears after she was forced off the podium by a male opponent.
In the past Taiwan's parliament has been notorious for hosting mass brawls between legislators but over the last few years debates have remained peaceful.
The tax, which the government said at the time was part of their efforts to ensure "social justice", was approved by the ruling Kuomintang controlled parliament in July last year and took effect in January.
But since then the new tax has sparked waves of opposition from influential business groups and big stock traders.
Amid mounting calls to scrap the tax to boost falling trading volumes, the Kuomintang government decided to revise the tax, but the attempt encountered strong objections from the three opposition parties.
The major opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asked President Ma Ying-jeou to apologise for what they said was a wrong policy -- a demand rejected by Ma.
The tax was part of Ma's efforts to close a growing gap between rich and poor -- a key component of his campaign platform when he was re-elected for a second and final term in January 2012.
In 1988 officials tried to introduce a similar levy but were forced to scrap it after the stock market slumped by more than 35 percent in a month.