Thousands protest over ‘nuke food’
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Thousands took to the streets to protest the proposed lifting of a ban on food products from radiation-affected areas of Japan, following an inconclusive public hearing on the matter Sunday morning.
The Kuomintang (KMT)-organized march kicked off with remarks from KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱).
“We will not tolerate our children being endangered by food products contaminated by radiation,” Hung said.
Hung urged the crowd of protestors to convey their dissent to the government as they marched from Aiguo East Road near Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and down Ketagalan Boulevard to the Ministry of Finance at Aiguo West Road.
Representatives from various demographics, including housewives, young parents and expecting parents, spoke out in turn before the march began.
The diversity of backgrounds represented at the march “reflected the 74 percent of all Taiwanese nationals who oppose lifting the ban on food imports from five Japanese regions affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster,” the march’s organizers claimed.
Expecting father Chen Hsiao-wei (陳孝威) expressed concerns that food imports from radiation-affected areas had already made their way into Taiwan.
Chen said he “did not understand any of the figures and numbers” presented by the government’s experts about the imports and only wanted to know why “Taiwanese people should eat these food products when the Koreans, Chinese, and Australians are not eating them.”
In a move that both served as a visual pun and was reminiscent of Latin America’s “pots and pans” protests, “new immigrants” — a term commonly used to refer to immigrants from Southeast Asia — attended the march with small pans and spatulas in hand to object to feeding their children potentially harmful food.
These mothers chose to “bravely speak out and bring their children to the march” to safeguard the welfare of the next generation, a representative of the new immigrant mothers told reporters.
A Failed Public Hearing
Earlier in the day, protestors and KMT legislators attended a public hearing at the Taipei Innovation City Convention Center in New Taipei City’s Xindian District.
The public hearing, which was intended to address the assessment and management of products from the five regions, failed to get past the explanation of the hearing’s rules after repeated outbursts from audience members.
Cabinet Spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) later said that “some people deliberately showed up (to the hearing) to provoke hatred.”
After moderator Chu Tseng-hung (朱增宏) spent most of the morning asking for decorum, legislators and NGO representatives present decided it was best for the public hearing to be downgraded to an informal forum that would hold no legal weight.
KMT Legislator Kao Chin Su-mei (高金素梅) said procedures for the hearing were “unjust” and that incorrect information was being disseminated. “The government is using technical issues to continue to beat around the bush (on this issue),” Kao Chin said during the hearing.
KMT Legislator Wayne Chiang (蔣萬安) said people’s voices were being omitted. At the march in the afternoon, he told the crowds, “The public hearing was not conducted in accordance with the principle of procedural justice.”
Chiang questioned the need for a hearing on the import of food products from radiation-affected areas if the government had reiterated that it would not allow the import of any “nuke foods.”
Around noon it was decided that the hearing would be downgraded to an informal forum, which organizers of the march later called a “victory of the people.”
Hsu Fu (許輔), director of the Cabinet’s food safety office later said that the forum had achieved “real results” and hoped the format could be used in future policy discussions.
President’s Office Responds
The office of President Tsai Ing-wen office later accused the KMT of “twisting” the hearing.
Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said a public hearing was one of the best “platforms for policy discussion” and that the KMT had managed to turn the hearing into “a show for their party’s own internal election.”
Huang stressed in his statement that the government had never wanted to open the country’s borders to radiation-contaminated food products. “Regardless of where the food products come from, the government holds the same attitude as every other country, which is that it would not import food contaminated by radiation.”
The presidential office spokesman further stated that the government would base their import policies on international professional standards and scientific evidence with no exception.
Radioactive Salmon in Canada
Earlier this month, a research team from Canada’s University of Victoria reported discovering radioactive salmon in the British Columbia region.
Research team leader Jay Cullen found that a sample of salmon from Okanagan Lake in British Columbia had tested positive for cesium 134, which is deemed “a footprint of Fukushima.”
In the years since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, there have been increasing concerns about radiation-contaminated food products originating from the region and contaminated water supplies from airborne radioactive fallout.
Last year, public outrage erupted after food from the Fukushima disaster site was found on British market shelves with false labels. The scare hit closer to home when Taiwan discovered that more than 100 radioactive food products, originating from Fukushima but falsely packaged as coming from Tokyo, had made it onto shelves in Taiwan.
With the issue of food from nuclear-affected regions under close scrutiny domestically, more and more countries and international media outlets are paying attention to the potential of radiation contamination from Fukushima.
At the march, KMT Vice-Chairman Hau Lung-pin (郝龍斌) took the opportunity to ask more people to sign the petition against lifting the food ban.
The petition has been signed by an estimated 78,000 people so far, with Hau stating in a previous interview that the number of signatures could reach 93,000 by year’s end.
KMT Legislator Lin Wei-jo (林為洲) said the brief suspension of plans to lift the ban was a direct result of nationals across Taiwan sending petitions in opposition.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu, front third right, attends a demonstration along Taipei’s Ketagalan Boulevard yesterday against the proposed lifting of a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures.
KMT leads public protests over Japanese import ban
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday took to the streets of Taipei, threatening to recall any lawmakers who voice support for the lifting of the nation’s import ban on Japanese food products from five Japanese prefectures, urging President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration to provide the public with an explanation.
Taiwan imposed import restrictions on food products from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures following the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011.
Addressing a rally against the relaxation of the ban outside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall MRT Station in the afternoon, KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) accused Tsai’s administration of caving in to Japanese pressure and “forcing radiation-contaminated foods down the throats of Taiwanese.”
“We do not understand the Democratic Progressive Party’s [DPP] sudden flip-flop; we do not understand why the government is forcing people and their children to consume radiation-tainted food; and we do not understand … why we have to import radiation-contaminated food products just because of pressure from Japan,” Hung said.
Despite opposition to nuclear power plants being one of its major policy platforms, the DPP on one hand says all of Taiwan proper could be affected in the event of a nuclear disaster, but on the other says that the import of Japanese foods, except those from Fukushima, should be allowed, Hung said.
Hung then led the protesters in chanting slogans such as: “Whoever supports radiation-tainted foods will be recalled” and “opposing radiation-affected foods to save our kids; opposing radiation-affected foods to save ourselves; opposing radiation-affected foods to save Taiwan.”
The protesters then marched to Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building, before heading toward the Ministry of Finance, which is next to Tsai’s official residence.
The demonstration took place concurrently with a referendum signature collection event held just a few hundred meters away organized by KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who is reportedly interested in running against Hung in the KMT’s next chairperson election in May next year.
Asked whether the two separate events suggested disagreement between her and Hau, Hung dismissed the idea, saying that KMT headquarters welcomed the referendum drive initiated by Hau on the import ban.
Earlier yesterday, Hau and other KMT officials mobilized hundreds of supporters to boycott the first extra public hearings an lifting the import ban held by the Executive Yuan in New Taipei City’s Sindian District (新店) in the morning.
“The purpose of a public hearing should be to solicit the opinions of all sectors of society before deciding whether to allow imports of Japanese foods from radiation-affected areas,” Hau said. “If the public hearing is merely used by the government to brief or convince the public, we will definitely not accept it.”
The Executive Yuan arranged three extra public hearings on the import ban — scheduled for yesterday, Monday next week and Jan. 8 — after the previous 10 hearings that took place last month were criticized as being held in a hasty manner.
However, the hearing yesterday was disrupted by scuffles and verbal clashes.
KMT head slams government amid protests over Japanese food imports
Taipei, Dec. 25 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and her party supporters took to the streets Sunday to protest against a proposed lifting by the government of a ban on imports of food products from radiation-affected areas of Japan.
Standing among several senior KMT officials on Ketagalan Boulevard, Hung accused President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her government for considering allowing imports of banned Japanese food products at the expense of the health of Taiwan’s people, adding that she will initiate a recall campaign against Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers who support lifting the ban.
“We can no longer tolerate this,” she shouted, calling for the government to have a “rational discussion” of the issue.
The KMT rally began with protesters marching from Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to the Ministry of Finance building.
Meanwhile, protests also erupted outside the venue of a public hearing on imports of controversial Japanese food products in New Taipei’s Xindian District.
The meeting, organized by the Executive Yuan, barely got started as various civic groups, including the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance, Mom Loves Taiwan, and Homemakers United Foundation, broke into the event to decry the discussion as illegal because a public notice had not been published 14 days prior to the date of the meeting.
Chu Tseng-hung (朱增宏), who was assigned to chair the event, told reporters that the hearing would have to be postponed, as repeated interruptions made it impossible for the event to take place as originally scheduled.
KMT to protest at ‘nuke food’ public hearing
TAIPEI, Taiwan — The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) is scheduled to hold two waves of demonstrations Sunday against a proposed lifting of the ban on food products from radiation-affected areas of Japan.
The KMT on Sunday morning will gather around 500 protesters in New Taipei’s Xindian District in front of the venue of a central government-held public hearing on imports of controversial Japanese food products, according to a plan released by the party Saturday.
Later in the day, the party will mobilize around 10,000 people to march from Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to the Ministry of Finance building, the KMT said.
Senior KMT officials, led by Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), will also take part in the march.
Also that day, the Taipei City Police Department said traffic controls would be imposed on some road sections from noon until 3:30 p.m. Sunday to accommodate the event.
The affected areas are Aiguo East Road, Zhongshan South Road, Ketagalan Boulevard, Gongyuan Road and Aiguo West Road, all near Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
The Taipei City Public Transportation Office said that 26 bus lines will have to change their routes Sunday in response to the traffic controls and urged people to use the metro system if they want to travel to the affected areas.
Taiwan banned food imports from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster following a massive earthquake and tsunami in on March 11, 2011.
The Democratic Progressive Party government is now considering lifting the ban on food from all the prefectures except for Fukushima, but this proposal has encountered virulent opposition.
Last month, scuffles involving critics and officials occurred at public hearings, where critics asserted that the central government was holding the brief series of hearings to pave the way for lifting the five-year ban on produce from the prefectures that were affected by radiation after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The government insists that it is maintaining its ban on tea, water, baby milk powder and seafood products from four prefectures — Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Chiba — following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011.
Products from the four prefectures that lack official place of origin labels and proof they are radiation-free are also banned from entering Taiwan. The Executive Yuan and DPP local governments also stand by complete enforcement of restrictions on food imports into Taiwan that are also banned in the U.S. and Japan.
Taiwan hearing on Japan food ban canceled after erupting in chaos
TAIPEI – The first of three public hearings on whether Taiwan should ease its ban on Japanese food imports imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis was canceled Sunday amid shouting, table pounding, and physical altercations.
Hundreds of protesters mobilized by the main opposition Kuomintang clashed with police outside the hearing venue in New Taipei City. A truck parked outside bore placards calling President Tsai Ing-wen “Japan’s servile follower” and demanding her resignation.
Participants allowed inside criticized organizers for blocking people outside from entering. One opponent who prepared her own microphone said the hearings are meaningless because Tsai has the final say on the matter.
In addition to the protest in the morning, KMT also organized a march in Taipei during the afternoon.
When the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple core meltdown, Taiwan banned food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi, and Chiba prefectures, and began conducting random radiation checks on nine categories of imported foods.
The Tsai administration recently formulated a plan to relax the ban in two stages.
Under the proposal, Taiwan plans to keep in place its ban on the import of all food products from Fukushima but conditionally allow imports of certain products from the other four prefectures.
The first stage of the plan will serve as a reference for the further relaxation of restrictions in the second stage, possibly about six months later.
Sunday’s public hearing, video conferencing with participants on the outlying Matsu Islands and streamed live on the internet, was the first of three the administration promised to hold after 10 were held across the island last month.
The KMT criticized the Tsai government for holding the 10 hearings in three days, questioning whether it has made a secret deal with Japan in exchange for something.
The administration then decided to hold three more, one in New Taipei on Sunday, another in Kaohsiung in the south on Jan. 2, and the third in Taipei on Jan. 8.
During Sunday’s hearing, opponents alleged that the event was improperly organized and that documents were not provided in an appropriate manner.
The organizers decided to cancel the event but allowed participants to voice opinions in the afternoon, calling it a discussion session.
The morning session began with chaos, with participants shouting, throwing documents and pounding and jumping on the tables.
KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin argued that Sunday’s hearing was “illegal” and “meaningless” because the Tsai administration has already planned to ease the ban.
Hau, who initiated a signature drive to endorse a referendum on whether to relax the ban, said the administration is duty-bound to explain the possibility of it using the ban easing as a bargaining chip in exchange for a trade deal with Japan and how such a trade deal will benefit Taiwan.
KMT legislator Wang Yu-min said Chiou I-jen, chairman of the Association of East Asian Relations, Taiwan’s semi-official agency handling the island’s relations with Japan, should attend Sunday’s public hearing because he is responsible for negotiating the trade deal.
She also argued the administration is in no position to talk about the government’s plan to ease the ban because it cannot ensure food safety, citing the recent discovery that packets of soy sauce subject to the ban entered the country illegally.
Following the discovery, the Executive Yuan, or Cabinet, said before a mechanism is established to ensure the safety of food products imported from the five prefectures and public confidence in the government is restored, easing the ban is not an option.
It also emphasized that the government does not have any set position and there is no timetable set for easing the ban.