Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Oct. 22, 2018
HONG KONG – More time is needed for Hong Kong to lift its ban on food imports from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture imposed in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster there as public confidence remains low, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said.
In an interview with Japanese media ahead of her first official working trip to Tokyo since taking office as chief executive in 2017, Lam said that while food safety remains a priority, consumer sentiment is another deciding factor for when the ban should be lifted.
“We will have to continue to monitor the situation and to see when is the right time, especially (for) public acceptance,” Lam said.
She said there’s no point in the government relaxing the ban if the public end up not supporting the move. “They will still not buy the food, so we have to find the right situation with the needed assurance before we change the import restrictions,” she added.
Hong Kong in July lifted the ban on imports of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, milk beverages and milk formula from the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma nearby Fukushima.
But the ban on food imports from Fukushima, which hosts the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, remains in place.
Lam said that since the lifting of the food ban from the four prefectures, individual cases of food imports lacking needed certificates have led to law enforcement activities, which in turn impacted public confidence.
China, which restricted the import of foods and feedstuff produced in 10 of Japan’s 47 prefectures over radiation worries, has informed Japan of its intention to relax the ban through diplomatic channels, it was reported, according to the sources.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to reach a deal when he meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Oct 26.
Defending Hong Kong’s recent moves to outlaw an independence-seeking political party and expel a foreign journalist who hosted a talk by the party’s leader, Lam insisted that the people’s rights and freedoms remain intact.
“I am not suggesting that I should, or the government should put a limit on freedom of speech or freedom of reporting in Hong Kong. I am saying, internationally, there is no absolute freedom per se. If anybody is aggrieved by the executive…they can take us to court,” she said.
Lam said judges from foreign common law jurisdictions, including Britain, Australia and Canada, sitting on the territory’s top court to adjudicate cases is proof that Hong Kong courts are not interfered with or influenced by the Chinese government.
The chief executive will embark on the five-day visit to Japan from Oct 29, a first for a Hong Kong leader since 2010. She is slated to meet with Japanese officials over issues covering government business, trade and investment, education, technology science, tourism and women’s affairs.