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KMT vice chair calls for referendum on radiation-affected food

2016/12/01 18:44:10

Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌, front center)

Taipei, Dec. 1 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) on Thursday called for the public to support a national referendum on food safety and reject food products from five radiation-affected prefectures in Japan.

Hau said the referendum was a non-partisan proposal.

"I decide what I eat," Hau said in Tainan, southern Taiwan as he called for a referendum on food safety.

The first step in securing a referendum is to collect the signatures of 95,000 voters within a 45-day period, which Hau said he hoped to complete in 30 days or less.

The second step is to collect a further 950,000 signatures, Hau said.

Attempts by the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration to lift the ban are designed to ingratiate it with Japan and will be detrimental to public health, Hau added.

He said signature drive will be launched on Dec. 3-4.

Tainan City Councilor Hsieh Lung-chieh (謝龍介) of the KMT said that local markets are deeply critical of the government's proposal to lift the ban and estimated that Hau could secure the necessary signatures in two weeks.

Media reports have said that Hau, former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) and civic groups such as the Consumers' Foundation will jointly campaign for a referendum.

In separate news, the KMT announced on Thursday that it will launch a second signature drive on Dec. 4 at markets and public venues across Taiwan.

Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣), a KMT legislative caucus whip, said the party has called for action on food safety for months, but the government has refused to listen to public opinion.

It is now time to demonstrate the public will by supporting the KMT's proposal that the ban on food radiation-affected areas of Japan remain in place, he said at a press conference.

The KMT welcomed the participation of civic groups in the campaign to secure a national referendum, Chiang said.

In response to comments made by Mitsuo Ohashi, chairman of the Japan Interchange Association, who said on Tuesday that Taiwan's concerns about food from radiation-affected areas of Japan were "unfounded," and that the ban has hurt the feelings of the Japanese people, KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said, "What I want to say to him is that if those food products come to Taiwan, they will hurt the Taiwanese people."

In response, Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡), legislative caucus whip of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said the KMT has the right to launch a signature drive or campaign for a referendum, indicating that the government will take note whatever the results of the signature drives.

Taiwan has banned imports of food products from five prefectures in Japan - Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi - that were contaminated with radioactive substances following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, a catastrophe triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Taiwan's government is now considering lifting the ban on food from all the prefectures except Fukushima, but has run into virulent opposition.

(By Chang Jung-hsiang, Liu Kuan-ting, Justin Su and Lilian Wu)
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