Hsinchu city-county merger amendment clears first hurdle

Taipei, December 24 (CNA) An amendment to the Local Government Act paving the way for a merger between Hsinchu city and Hsinchu county and the transition to special municipality status passed in committee after passing its first legislative obstacle Friday.

The amendment bill, sponsored by Progressive Democratic Party (DPP) lawmaker Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), has passed its first reading on the floor of the Legislative Assembly and will now be referred to relevant committees for consideration .

Proposals by opposition lawmakers to send the bill back to the Procedure Committee, where the agendas for bills that reach the Legislative Assembly are set, were rejected by 45 votes to 56.

The amendment seeks to lower the bar on creating special municipalities in Taiwan by removing the minimum population requirement in a region.

Currently, only a region with a population of 1.25 million and more that has “particular needs in terms of political, economic, cultural and metropolitan development” can be reconstituted as a special municipality, in accordance with Article 4 of the law on local authorities.

The bill is part of the DPP’s offer to merge Hsinchu City with Hsinchu County, an area home to Hsinchu Science Park as well as the headquarters of contract chip maker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

The DPP’s plan would also aim to transform the unified region into a special municipality.

As of November 2021, around 1.02 million people resided in the combined region, including 452,665 in Hsinchu City and 575,131 in Hsinchu County, according to local government figures.

In his proposal, DPP’s Ker, who also heads the party’s caucus in the legislature, wrote that population should no longer be a requirement when it comes to establishing a special municipality due to the declining number of people. Taiwan’s birth rate and increasingly digitized governance.

Instead, the country’s overall land planning and industrial developments in each region should be taken into account, Ker wrote, saying the creation of special municipalities would help bridge the gap between urban and rural areas while improving the competitiveness of the country.

Merger talks began to surface in September when the mayor of Hsinchu city, Lin Chih-chien (林智堅) of the DPP, said it was important for the Hsinchu region to become a special municipality in order to continue. His development.

Lin said at the time that residents of the Hsinchu area contributed NT $ 190 billion ($ 6.78 billion) in taxes per year – ranking fifth in the country – but budgets allocated by the central government to the region for its infrastructure had fallen. behind other special municipalities.

Special municipalities are entitled to a greater share of budgets from central government tax revenues compared to counties and cities at the county level.

Lin’s point of view was supported by DPP President and Chairman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who said at a party meeting on Wednesday that the merger of Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County was “a fairly urgent matter”.

The region has been the hub of Taiwan’s technology industry and its merger and upgrading would give it more power in governance and capacity, and subsequently promote the development of key industries in the country, a- she added.

However, the Kuomintang (KMT), the largest opposition party in the Legislature, questioned the DPP’s motives.

The KMT accused the DPP of preparing for Lin to run for mayor of Hsinchu again in the local elections in November 2022, which would only be possible if the merger took place.

Under current Taiwanese laws, city mayors and county magistrates are limited to two four-year terms. However, if the merger of Hsinchu City and Hsinchu County is completed, Lin, who is currently serving his second term, could run for mayor of the newly established Combined Municipality.

On the other hand, Hsinchu County Magistrate Yang Wen-ke (楊 文科) of the KMT said he was not opposed to Lin’s idea but believed the merger should also include the neighboring county of Miaoli.

In that case, Yang continued, the DPP would not need to push for the amendment because the population of the three locations would exceed the 1.25 million required by current law.

There are currently six special municipalities in Taiwan – Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung – which together account for nearly 70% of Taiwan’s 2.35 million people, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior. (ME).

Any proposed upgrading to special municipality status must be reviewed by the Interior Ministry, which will then submit its recommendation to Cabinet for final approval.

(By Wang Yang-yu and Teng Pei-ju)

Final element / ASG

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