Hundreds protest Fukushima imports
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Hundreds on Thursday called for the president and premier to resign, accusing the ruling party of “selling out Taiwan” and “poisoning our children” in its push to ease a ban on food imports from Japan’s radiation-affected regions.
Protesters organized by the Kuomintang (KMT) demonstrated in front of the Executive Yuan early Thursday, as party councilors from across the country took turns addressing the crowd.
“We are humans, and humans don’t eat radiation-contaminated food,” the crowd chanted with Tainan City Councilor Hsieh Lung-chieh (謝龍介), who accused that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of betraying its promise to safeguard Taiwan’s food safety.
“We all remember clearly which party strongly protested against nuclear power in the past, but who’s about to feed poisonous food to our children now!” Hsieh said.
Taipei City Councilor Wang Hsin-yi (王欣儀) said the protest was not about political issues but was instead “a matter of life and death.”
Taipei City Councilor Ying Hsiao-wei (應曉薇) introduced a 3-year-old girl carried by an elderly woman, and urged the crowd to “fight the government to defend public health.”
Clash with Police
Hsieh asked police officers to “give way” to protesters so they could enter the Executive Yuan and submit their petition to the premier.
When the police stood their ground, demonstrators attempted to storm the grounds.
The clash ended after Hsu Fu (許輔), director of the Cabinet’s food safety office, stepped outside the Executive Yuan to receive the protesters’ petition and then invited KMT Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) and Chen Yi-ming (陳宜民) into the building for talks.
‘No contaminated food’
“No radiation-contaminated food products will be allowed into the nation,” according to a Cabinet press statement released Friday afternoon.
The Cabinet stated that it would take protesters’ concerns into account and reinstate its “four-noes policy” on Japanese food imports.
It said all products from the Fukushima Prefecture would continue to be prohibited from entering Taiwan’s borders.
Food products from Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Chiba — four of the five prefectures affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster — that are at high risk of absorbing radiation would also remain banned.
Those with a lower risk of radiation contamination would also stay banned if they did not have a certificate confirming state of origin and radiation levels.
Food products still banned by the U.S. and the Japanese government would also remain banned from Taiwan.
An earthquake and tsunami had triggered meltdowns of nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture in 2011.
Dozens of countries worldwide imposed sanctions or tightened restrictions on food imports produced in the regions around Fukushima Prefecture.
Starting 2015, the European Union and the U.S. gradually lifted the bans as Tokyo continued to urge the move on grounds of fair international trade.
Government communication on Japanese food is a failure: Luis Ko
The issue of allowing the import of food products from parts of Japan affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has triggered a spate of conflicts and quarrels in Taiwan. Apart from opposition parties and social groups including physicians, even Democratic Progressive Party city mayors and county magistrates have been sending out mixed signals. The uproar has even made the model student in the matter of food safety, I-Mei Foods Co. CEO Luis Ko, shake his head. On November 19, he wrote on his Facebook page that the government should plan first and move later, and not create needless public dissatisfaction and unease.
Because several countries recently gradually lifted import restrictions on products from the disaster-stricken areas, Taiwan could soon follow suit and allow the import of some products from Fukushima prefecture and from four other prefectures (Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba). The government organized public hearings on the matter which were criticized as haphazard. Earlier this week, 15 county and city chiefs from ruling and opposition parties voiced their opposition and said they did not agree with the import of the food. However, after the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan contacted the 13 DPP mayors and magistrates, they altered their stance and said they agreed with the central government, saying that what they opposed was food imported from Fukushima prefecture.
On November 19, I-Mei Foods CEO Luis Ko wrote on his Facebook page that he felt surprise and concern at the government’s current handling of its food safety policy. He wondered why the government departments and officials in charge of agricultural produce and foodstuffs were the ones to stand at the forefront of the discussions with the public, and why the officials at the Ministry of Health and Welfare and at the Food and Drug Administration, who have usually made brave statements about food safety issues, only played a “supporting role.” He said the government had failed in its internal communication and integration. “Major problems have arisen with the functioning of the government team!”
Luis Ko also says the fact that the new government has failed to successfully execute several policies over the past six months as a result of insufficient internal “communication and integration” and of being unable to “plan first and move later.” He concluded by calling on the president and the premier to bear in mind the profound hopes of the people and to show the ability to reflect.