(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan lawmakers passed legislation that could curb the authority of newly inaugurated President Lai Ching-te as thousands of protesters gathered outside parliament to oppose the changes.

The legislature passed the controversial measure Tuesday afternoon following a day of raucous debates and scuffles between Lai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party and opposition groups, which saw one lawmaker’s T-shirt ripped. That contrasted with demonstrations outside parliament that remained peaceful, though lively.

“Even if democracy is dead, we will not stop fighting,” shouted protesters, dressed in raincoats and holding umbrellas in the rain.

The bill was backed by the Kuomintang and the Taiwan People’s Party, both of which have backed efforts to improve ties with China. The two parties together control a majority in the 113-seat legislature. The new measures will allow lawmakers to summon the president, companies and even the general public for questioning and give them access to confidential documents.

After the bill was approved, KMT caucus whip Fu Kun-chi said the opposition will form a special task force to investigate corruption in the government. Lai’s DPP will seek a constitutional review of the bill, according to caucus leader Ker Chien-ming. 

Critics of the bill have raised concerns that those powers could lead to leaks of sensitive information and punishment for those who refuse to answer questions. 

Taiwan already has the Control Yuan, a supervisory branch of government with the power to investigate and impeach officials. On Thursday, the Control Yuan said the legislature risks violating separation of powers as stipulated by the constitution. TPP caucus whip Huang Kuo-chang, meanwhile, threatened to push for abolishing the Control Yuan. 

Progress on passing revisions to the law had been slow earlier in the day, as the DPP made legislators go through all 77 articles of the measure — even those not being changed — as a stalling tactic. 

The bill passed swiftly on its final reading via a show of hands, with 58 out of 103 lawmakers present voting in its favor. While Lai won in January’s presidential election, his party lost its majority in the legislature, changing the global chip hub’s political landscape.

Those divisions have defined Lai’s first weeks in power, with the amendments threatening to impair his ability to enact policies in the island that sits at the heart of China-US tensions. China claims Taiwan as it’s territory and President Xi Jinping’s government slammed its new leader as an “independence worker” after Lai’s inauguration last week.

The crowds outside parliament Tuesday followed demonstrations last week that were among the largest since the 2014 Sunflower student movement, when protesters stormed and occupied Taiwan’s parliament to block the passage of an unpopular trade pact with China.

“Your effort won’t go to waste,” Lai Chung-chiang, convener of the Economic Democracy Union — an organizer of the demonstrations — told protesters after the measure passed. Taiwan’s cabinet should now throw the bill back for another legislative review, he said, while pledging to tell KMT voters how the bill violated their rights.  

Protesters lingered at the rally even after the bill passed, with the demonstration reaching the same scale as a week ago.

“It’s important to defend for the value you care for and I’m here to do that and to give back to society,”said Feng Mei-jun, who works for a group that’s been paying close attention to social issues from 2016. 

As lawmakers debated the bill on Tuesday, the floor of the legislature was as colorful and boisterous as the streets outside, with representatives from both sides festooning parliament with placards.

DPP lawmakers had waved bubble tea-shaped torches, shouting, “Brush your teeth! Your breath stinks!” at their KMT colleagues, a reference to what they claim are opposition lies about the bill. “End the meeting if there is no discussion,” they said.  

As the disagreement turned physical, KMT lawmakers yelled: “The DPP is a violent party.”  

The KMT, which oversaw a dramatic expansion of ties with China a decade ago under then-President Ma Ying-jeou, had pushed back at suggestions the law is the result of outside influence. “It has nothing to do with anyone, anything beyond our air defense identification zone,” said Alexander Huang, an adviser to the party, referring to a security buffer area around the island that Beijing frequently enters.

But protesters are angry the KMT and the TPP have cooperated to bring legislation directly to a floor vote, without the normal clause-by-clause deliberation in committee. A bill prepared by the DPP was, meanwhile, left in committee.

With the help of social media — especially Threads, which reportedly has nearly 2 million active users in Taiwan — protests for Tuesday were quickly arranged across at least 10 cities.

“Citizens speak up rationally. Young people show their strength,” Lai said in a post on X on Saturday. “The legislative branch should heed these voices and resume normal operations as soon as possible.” 

Protesters have dubbed their movement the “Blue Bird Action” — named after a road they occupied last week.

--With assistance from Argin Chang and Debby Wu.

(Updates with comments from all parties involved in the 4th, 5th, and 7th paragraphs)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.