Taiwan lawmakers go for the jugular in parliament brawl

TAIPEI - Two Taiwanese lawmakers tried to choke each other during a brawl in the island's parliament Thursday as the government of President Tsai Ing-wen pressed ahead with controversial reforms.

Female legislators from opposing camps had their hands on each other's throats as a dozen colleagues pushed and shouted trying to separate them in the main chamber during a review of a major infrastructure project.

The opposition Kuomintang party is against the plan, saying it favours cities and counties faithful to Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and has been devised to secure support for the party ahead of next year' s regional elections.

The project includes light rail lines, flood control measures and green energy facilities.

Critics have also questioned whether the whopping Tw$420 billion (S$20 billion) cost of the project is really worthwhile.

The review hearing was suspended following the brawl as Kuomintang lawmakers occupied the podium.

It was expected to resume Thursday afternoon.

Tsai has seen her popularity plummet to under 40 per cent from nearly 70 per cent when she took office in May last year as her government attempts to tackle a range of controversial issues from gay marriage to pension and judicial reforms.

Violent protests erupted outside the parliament in April when opponents of pension reforms attacked politicians and scuffled with police, prompting Tsai to call for calm and restraint.

Parliament was also plunged into chaos late last year when opposing lawmakers brawled in the chamber, as labour activists set off smoke bombs outside in protest at proposed holiday cuts.