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July 25, 2017

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A brief history of Taiwanese lawmakers beating each other up

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan made international headlines last week as disagreement over infrastructure spending turned into all-out brawling among lawmakers for two consecutive days.

The fighting, which involved everything from slaps to water balloons to thrown chairs, started Thursday and continued Friday as the ruling Democratic Progressive tried to move ahead with the administration's controversial NT$840 billion plan to improve infrastructure.

The session was suspended after members of the opposition Kuomintang tried to occupy the speaker's rostrum to prevent the bill's passage, triggering the chaos.

Video from the Legislature's floor showed lawmakers knocking each other to the ground, shouting, spraying water across the room and striking each other as Premier Lin Chuan looks on.

It was far from the first time that Taiwanese lawmakers have come to blows.

Although the behavior is often criticized and politicians sometimes apologize for their behavior, it is seen as being red meat for their bases — proof that lawmakers will fight for their constituents, literally if necessary.

Here are a few highlights of the notoriously quick-to-fisticuffs parliament:

May 2007: Disagreement over the timing of an electoral reform bill proposed by the KMT ended in chaos as rival lawmakers got into a heated mass shoving match.

July 2010: Controversy over a trade deal with China resulted in a particularly large-scale fight, landing two lawmakers in the hospital.

August 2013: Water was thrown and lawmakers wrestled each other on the floor over a vote to authorize a referendum on the continued construction of the fourth power plant in New Taipei.

December 2016: Parliament descended into chaos again when an amendment was passed to remove seven public holidays. Three lawmakers were sent to the hospital.

But legislative violence is hardly unique to Taiwan. Ukraine rivals Taiwan in having the world's most famous parliamentary brawls. Other countries that have seen lawmakers going tete-a-tete include Turkey, Kenya, India, South Africa, Nepal, Nigeria, Italy, Bolivia, Georgia, Somalia, Venezuela, Mexico and South Korea.

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