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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Taiwan MP in 'tear gas' protest
By Caroline Gluck
BBC News, Taipei

Lee Ao sprays gas in parliament
Mr Lee is known as a political maverick
A Taiwanese legislator could face disciplinary action after spraying what appeared to be tear gas during a parliamentary committee hearing.

Independent legislator Lee Ao, who was trying stop debate on a controversial arms bill, also pulled out a stun gun.

Mr Lee caused a commotion after putting on a mask and spraying gas from an aerosol canister into the packed room.

Although his actions worked to block the discussions, he could be suspended for violating safety regulations.

"I'm an old man and I can risk my life," said Mr Lee, 71, who is also a candidate in the mayoral elections in Taipei in December.

He then brandished a stun gun, setting off a warning alarm.

'Political maverick'

Some legislators were clearly shocked; others laughed, while more started coughing and began running towards windows and the exit doors.

After all the commotion, the committee then blocked discussion of the arms bill, which has been held up for the past two years.

The bill would allow billions of dollars of arms to be purchased from the United States.

The opposition parties have argued that the multi billion dollar arms purchase of submarines and anti-submarine aircraft from the United States is unnecessary and too costly.

Analysts have warned that Taiwan needs to boost its defence spending to prevent the military balance shifting further in China's favour.

While Lee Ao's antics appear to have succeeded, they have left some legislators furious.

He could now be referred to a parliamentary disciplinary committee, which has the power to suspend him if it rules that he has violated safety regulations.

Mr Lee is often described as a political maverick.

He is a respected writer and a popular television personality, well known for his acerbic comments and controversial views.

But his latest actions, which have now become headline news, are being seen by many as a step too far.


SEE ALSO
Taiwan highlights Chinese threat
19 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Taiwanese MPs hold a food fight
26 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
China general warns US on Taiwan
15 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Taiwan
11 Aug 06 |  Country profiles

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