ROC Yearbook

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President Tsai Ing-wen (center left) and Vice President Chen Chien-jen wave to the audience May 20, 2016, after taking their oaths of office. (Courtesy of the Office of the President)

 

The ROC Constitution

The Republic of China is a multiparty democracy founded on the ROC Constitution. The Constitution was adopted by the National Assembly 國民大會 in Nanjing 南京 on December 25, 1946; was promulgated on January 1, 1947; and took effect on December 25 of that same year. It comprises 175 articles in 14 chapters, plus 12 additional articles added in seven rounds of revision between 1991 and 2005.

 

The document begins by declaring: “The Republic of China, founded on the Three Principles of the People 三民主義, shall be a democratic republic of the people, to be governed by the people and for the people.” These principles, formulated by Sun Yat-sen 孫中山, are a philosophical blueprint for building the ROC into a modern, forward-looking nation.

 

The Principle of Nationalism 民族主義 asserts the ROC’s sovereign status and insists on its equal rights in the international community, as well as ethnic equality. The Principle of Democracy 民權主義 assures each citizen the right to exercise political and civil liberties. The Principle of Social Well-being 民生主義 states that the powers granted to the government must be used to serve the people by developing a prosperous, just society. The Three Principles of the People have shaped government policy and legislation in areas ranging from education and land reform to social welfare.

 

Constitutional Rights and Freedoms

The rights and freedoms guaranteed to citizens by the Constitution include equality before the law; the right to work and own property; and the powers of election and of recall and initiative by means of referendum. In line with Article 136 of the Constitution, the system for exercising the right of direct democracy is stipulated in the Referendum Act 公民投票法.

 

People are also ensured the freedoms of speech, choice of residence, movement, assembly, confidential communication, religion and association. Rights and freedoms not specified in the Constitution are protected by Article 22, which states, “All other freedoms and rights of the people that are not detrimental to social order or public welfare shall be guaranteed under the Constitution.”

 

Fundamental National Policies

The Constitution specifies areas of concern that require supplementary legislation as well as issues of importance to the nation. Chapter XIII of the Constitution, titled “Fundamental National Policies,” contains guidelines on national defense, foreign policy, the national economy, social security, education and culture. Principles governing environmental protection, national health insurance and gender equality are enunciated in the Additional Articles of the Constitution.

 

Political Reforms

To deal with the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party during the Chinese Civil War, the National Assembly adopted the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion 動員戡亂時期臨時條款 in 1948. Thereby, presidential powers were greatly expanded while protection of basic freedoms and rights were seriously eroded.

 

Following the end of martial law in 1987, the National Assembly abolished the Temporary Provisions in 1991 with the aim of more effectively implementing constitutional democracy as well as fostering healthy cross-strait relations. In that same year, the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion was ended by decree. (See Chapter 4, “Cross-strait Relations.”)

 

A number of major reforms in the ROC’s political system have been accomplished through constitutional amendments. Six rounds of constitutional revision—in 1991, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999 and 2000—initiated direct popular elections of the ROC’s president and vice president; instituted regular elections for all seats in the Legislative Yuan (Legislature) 立法院; granted the Legislative Yuan power to initiate a no-confidence vote against the premier (president of the Executive Yuan 行政院); gave the president of the ROC authority to dissolve the Legislative Yuan; reformed the Control Yuan 監察院; and reduced the scope of authority and operations of the Taiwan Provincial Government 臺灣省政府.

 

In 2004, the Legislature passed a package of proposals for constitutional amendments on issues regarding parliamentary organization, changes in the system for electing legislators, transfer of power to ratify proposed constitutional amendments from the National Assembly to the general electorate through referendum, and abolition of the National Assembly.

 

Since 2005, the Central Election Commission 中央選舉委員會 has merged various types of elections to reduce the frequency and costs of national elections. In both 2012 and 2016, the presidential and legislative elections were held concurrently. In November 2014, nine types of local government elections were held simultaneously, marking the largest-scale electoral event in the ROC’s history.

 

Central Government

The central government consists of the Office of the President 總統府 and five branches, or yuans: the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan 司法院, Examination Yuan 考試院 and Control Yuan.

 

Presidency

The president of the ROC is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. As head of state, the president represents the nation in foreign relations and at state functions, and may conclude international agreements. The president is further empowered by the Constitution to appoint and remove top civil and military officials; promulgate laws; dissolve the Legislative Yuan in the event it dismisses the premier through a vote of no confidence; help resolve disputes between branches of the central government; and issue emergency decrees in response to national security threats or other crises.

 

Under the direct administrative jurisdiction of the Office of the President are Academia Sinica 中央研究院, whose scholars are widely reputed as being among the nation’s top researchers in many disciplines in both the physical and social sciences; Academia Historica 國史館, custodian of the national archives and other important historical items; and the National Security Council 國家安全會議, charged with assisting the president in addressing issues that concern the nation’s critical interests (see Chapter 5, “National Defense”).

 

The president and the vice president are elected as a ticket and win office by receiving a plurality of the popular vote. Their term of office is four years, and they may be re-elected to serve one additional term.

 

The ROC is sometimes described as having a semi-presidential system because the president does not exercise direct administrative authority over the executive branch. Nevertheless, the president exerts considerable influence over the operations of the various branches of the central government through his power to appoint the premier and other top officials.

 

Historic 2016 ROC Presidential and Legislative Elections

 

Executive Yuan

The Executive Yuan is the executive branch of the ROC government, headed by the premier. The premier is directly appointed by the president, while other members of the Executive Yuan Council, or Cabinet—comprising the vice premier, ministers, chairpersons of commissions, and ministers without portfolio—are appointed by the president on recommendation of the premier. In addition to supervising the subordinate organs of the Executive Yuan, the premier explains administrative policies and reports to the Legislative Yuan and responds to the interpellations of legislators.

 

To streamline the executive branch and improve its effectiveness, while at the same time enhancing flexibility within its departments, several government structure laws were amended between 2010 and 2011. Among them are the Basic Code Governing Central Administrative Agencies Organizations 中央行政機關組織基準法, the Organizational Act of the Executive Yuan 行政院組織法, the Act Governing the Total Number of Personnel Headcounts of Central Government Agencies 中央政府機關總員額法, the Provisional Act for Adjustment of Functions and Organizations of the Executive Yuan 行政院功能業務與組織調整暫行條例 and the Non-Departmental Public Bodies Act 行政法人法.

 

As a result, several agencies will cease to exist after their functions are transferred to other commissions or ministries, and the number of Cabinet-level organizations will be reduced from 37 to 29 over the restructuring period that commenced January 1, 2012. When the process is complete, the Executive Yuan will consist of 14 ministries, eight councils, three independent agencies and four organizations. As of June 2016, four new ministries—the Ministry of Labor (MOL), Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), Ministry of Culture (MOC), and Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST)—had been created through the reorganization or consolidation of existing agencies. Two more new ministries—the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and Ministry of Agriculture—will be established after their organizational acts are passed by the Legislative Yuan.

 

The Government Information Office 新聞局 ceased operations on May 20, 2012, with its various missions respectively assumed by the MOC (which was upgraded from the Council for Cultural Affairs 文化建設委員會), the Executive Yuan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The National Youth Commission 青年輔導委員會 and the Sports Affairs Council 體育委員會 were merged into the Ministry of Education on January 1, 2013. The MOHW was upgraded from the Department of Health 衛生署 on July 23, 2013 and additionally given the social welfare responsibilities previously held by the Ministry of the Interior.

 

The National Development Council 國家發展委員會—merging the functions of the Council for Economic Planning and Development 經濟建設委員會, the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission 研究發展考核委員會 and the Public Construction Commission 公共工程委員會—was inaugurated on January 22, 2014. The MOL was upgraded from the Council of Labor Affairs 勞工委員會 on February 17, 2014. The MOST was reorganized from the National Science Council 國家科學委員會 on March 3, 2014. As of June 2016, a total of 22 executive branch agencies had completed restructuring.

 

Central Government After Executive Yuan Reorganization (Restructuring commenced January 1, 2012)

                                                                          

Legislative Yuan

The Legislative Yuan is the central government’s sole law-making body. It comprises 113 legislators, who serve four-year terms and are eligible to stand for re-election indefinitely.

 

Legislators elect from their ranks the legislative speaker, or president of the Legislative Yuan. The speaker is responsible for coordinating operations of the yuan, facilitating communication and compromise among legislators.

 

The Legislative Yuan’s functions and powers include general legislative power; hearing reports by government officials and questioning them on government policies and their implementation; reviewing budgetary bills and audit reports; confirming presidential nominations to top government posts, including members of the Control Yuan and Examination Yuan and the Judicial Yuan’s Constitutional Court justices 司法院大法官; and initiating proposals to amend the Constitution subject to ratification by popular referendum.

 

Further, the Legislative Yuan is empowered to help settle disputes involving local governments; initiate no-confidence votes against the premier; review and confirm emergency decrees issued by the ROC president; and impeach the ROC president or vice president.

 

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Judicial Yuan

The central function of the Judicial Yuan is to oversee the operations of the nation’s court systems, the largest of which hears criminal and civil cases and comprises district courts, high courts and the Supreme Court 最高法院. Issues of fact are adjudged by district courts and high courts, while the Supreme Court considers only issues of law.

 

The administrative court system—consisting of the Supreme Administrative Court 最高行政法院, three high administrative courts 高等行政法院 (in Taipei 臺北, Taichung 臺中 and Kaohsiung 高雄 cities, respectively), and administrative litigation divisions 行政訴訟庭 under district courts—adjudicates cases in which individuals, groups of persons or juridical persons seek remedies to violations of laws or regulations allegedly committed by government organizations. The administrative litigation divisions hand down judgments on questions of fact, and the high administrative courts hand down judgments on questions of both fact and law, while the Supreme Administrative Court reviews only questions of law.

 

Judges in the ROC’s court systems are selected from public prosecutors, attorneys-at-law and scholars or through an examination process designed and administered by the Judicial Yuan. Those who pass the examination undergo an intensive course of training at the yuan’s Judges Academy 法官學院. Those who complete the course successfully are appointed as lifetime judges in one of the above-mentioned court systems. However, incompetent judges may be removed from their posts under the Judges Act 法官法 passed in June 2011.

 

At the apex of the ROC’s judicial system are the 15 justices of the Constitutional Court, who interpret the Constitution and have the power to unify the interpretation of laws and regulations. They also make recommendations concerning rectification of inconsistencies between different laws and regulations, and preside over impeachment trials of the national president or vice president if the Legislative Yuan passes an impeachment resolution. The justices are nominated and appointed by the ROC president with the consent of the Legislative Yuan.

 

Examination Yuan

The Examination Yuan is the highest examination organ responsible for administering the nation’s civil service system. The primary rationale for having this independent branch of government is to ensure equality of opportunity among candidates for government employment and to set uniform standards, salaries and benefits throughout the central government as well as local governments.

 

This branch of government comprises a president, a vice president and up to 19 members, all of whom are appointed to six-year terms by the ROC president with the consent of the Legislative Yuan. At the end of their terms, they may be reappointed. Subordinate organizations under the Examination Yuan include the Ministry of Examination, Ministry of Civil Service, Civil Service Protection and Training Commission 公務人員保障暨培訓委員會 and Public Service Pension Fund Supervisory Board 公務人員退休撫卹基金監理委員會.

 

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Control Yuan

The Control Yuan is an independent body comprised of 29 members and the National Audit Office 審計部. All members, including the Control Yuan president, vice president and auditor-general, are appointed by the ROC president with the consent of the Legislative Yuan for a term of six years.

 

The Control Yuan is mandated to receive people’s complaints against public servants or agencies, conduct relevant investigations and recommend penalization. Control Yuan members can also initiate such investigations of their own accord. Through the National Audit Office, the Control Yuan also exercises the power to monitor the propriety of government organizations’ expenditures.

 

Depending upon their findings, Control Yuan members may propose impeachment, censure or corrective measures against public officials or government agencies for maladministration, violation of law or dereliction of duty. The censured agencies are required to make improvements, while the impeached persons will be given punishment meted out by the Judicial Yuan’s Public Functionary Disciplinary Sanction Commission 公務員懲戒委員會 or the Court of the Judiciary 司法院職務法庭.

 

The Control Yuan is additionally charged with anti-corruption tasks under the regulations of the sunshine acts. In 2000, the Human Rights Protection Committee 人權保障委員會 was also set up to advocate human rights and handle cases of alleged human rights violations.

 

Local Government

The three levels of autonomous local government are special municipalities; counties and provincial municipalities; and county municipalities and townships.

 

Local governments obtain the bulk of their budgets through a revenue-sharing arrangement whereby funds are allocated to them by the central government in accordance with standard criteria such as population and economic development.

 

The mayors and magistrates as well as representative council members of cities, towns and counties are elected to terms of four years.

 

The first two special municipalities were Taipei City 臺北市—the national capital—and Kaohsiung City 高雄市.

 

In December 2010, three new special municipalities were inaugurated to better coordinate public resources and give their residents a stronger voice in national affairs:

• New Taipei City 新北市, originally Taipei County 臺北縣.

• Taichung City, formed through the merger of the original Taichung City with Taichung County 臺中縣.

• Tainan City 臺南市, formed through the merger of the original Tainan City with Tainan County 臺南縣.

 

That same month, Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County 高雄縣 merged to become today’s expanded Kaohsiung City special municipality.

 

In December 2014, Taoyuan County 桃園縣 was promoted to a special municipality, Taoyuan City 桃園市, bringing the total number of ROC special municipalities to six.

 

Clean, Efficient Government

To boost transparency of government operations, in August 2007 the Legislative Yuan passed the Lobbying Act 遊說法, which took effect in August 2008. The law requires lobbyists to register their lobbying activities, while central and local government officials and elected representatives must inform responsible agencies of their communications with lobbyists.

 

Other actions taken to combat corruption in recent years include the enactment of regulations limiting the value and sources of gifts that public servants may accept. Amendments were made to the Anti-corruption Act 貪污治罪條例 in 2011 to punish those attempting to bribe public servants and raise penalties for public servants who are untruthful about suspicious increases in their property or income. In addition, the Agency Against Corruption 廉政署, dedicated to prevention and investigation of corruption, began operations in July 2011 under the Ministry of Justice.

 

To ensure administrative neutrality and press freedom, the Legislative Yuan in January 2011 approved a Budget Act 預算法 amendment prohibiting government agencies, state-run businesses and foundations as well as enterprises in which the government holds a majority stake from engaging in embedded advertising. Also, promotions of government policy or messages to the public in the media must be clearly labeled as such, along with the name of the sponsoring agency.

 

In September 2012, the Executive Yuan enacted guidelines for the executive branch and its subordinate agencies on the registration and monitoring of lobbying cases. Aside from making lobbying and its reporting more systematic, transparent and standardized, the guidelines are intended to curtail lobbying culture in the public sector while ensuring that government responsibilities are carried out properly. In case of improper lobbying, the person being lobbied should register the act at the ethics office of his workplace within three days.

 

E-government Development

Governments at the central and local levels have been striving to provide one-stop online services better tailored to the public’s needs. In addition to easy income tax filing options, e-government advances in recent years include the establishment of over 8,800 free Wi-Fi public hot spots across Taiwan; the creation of agricultural mobile applications keeping farmers up to date on critical market news; and partnerships with convenience stores offering 24-hour access to such services as tax and fee payments or driver’s license renewals.

 

The government has vowed to use open data, big data analysis and crowdsourcing to take e-government to the next level and improve public services. In 2014, data.gov.tw 政府資料開放平台, a centralized platform for government open data, was launched to enhance administrative transparency, meet industries’ needs and increase convenience for citizens.

 

Under an “online avatars” 網路分身 one-stop service initiative launched in late March 2015, several e-government portals were established to provide information and services regarding youth startups, digital tutoring, medical history, commodity prices, senior workforce development, and youths returning to their rural hometowns to start agribusinesses, among others.

 

The Phase V E-government Program 第五階段電子化政府計畫 (2017-2020) will harness the power of big data to expand public services. Its main objectives:

․Make life more convenient, by using information and communications technology to develop the Internet of Things.

․Grow the digital economy, by employing digital resources, adjusting regulations, and helping private enterprises move toward “smart” operations that create new value.

․Improve governance transparency, by opening government information to the public, and establishing online platforms where citizens can participate in policymaking.

 

Related Websites

• Office of the President: http://www.president.gov.tw

• Executive Yuan: http://www.ey.gov.tw

• Legislative Yuan: http://www.ly.gov.tw

• Judicial Yuan: http://www.judicial.gov.tw

• Examination Yuan: http://www.exam.gov.tw

• Control Yuan: http://www.cy.gov.tw

• MyEGov: http://www.taiwan.gov.tw

• Data.gov.tw: http://data.gov.tw