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Groups protest amid scuffles among lawmakers over nuclear vote

2013/08/02 18:44:36

Taipei, Aug. 2 (CNA) Nearly 100 activists protesting against Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant staged a protest in front of the Legislative Yuan Friday, urging the government to immediately stop work on the almost-completed project.

Members of the Taiwan Anti-Nuclear Action League waved posters and placards and shouted slogans to express their desire for the project to be scrapped.

The league comprises most of the anti-nuclear civic organizations in the country, including the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, the Humanistic Education Foundation and the Green Citizens' Action Alliance.

Taiwan Environmental Protection Union founding Chairman Shih Hsin-min noted that the project has been plagued with flaws and errors since construction began in 1999 and he expressed concern over the quality of the plant, which is situated in a coastal area of densely-populated New Taipei City.

If such a facility is allowed to operate, it will pose a major threat to the lives and properties of many people, he warned, urging the Legislature to bring up a resolution aimed at stopping the nuclear power plant's construction immediately.

The heated protest took place as ruling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers scuffled with their counterparts from the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over a proposed referendum on the nuclear plant during an extraordinary session of the Legislative Yuan.

The clash began when KMT legislators tried to seize control of the podium, which had been occupied by the opposition since the previous evening.

Several lawmakers sustained bruises or sprained muscle during scuffles that saw people wrestling on the legislative floor and plastic bottles and water being thrown.

The DPP lawmakers took over the podium in order to prevent a scheduled vote, which would likely approve the motion to hold a referendum to decide the fate of the controversial nuclear project.

In the referendum, the people will be asked whether they agree that construction of the No. 4 Nuclear Power Plant should be stopped and that the plant should not be allowed to operate.

The DPP caucus insists that the project should be scrapped without the referendum, which it criticizes for having too high a threshold to ever yield a "yes" answer or to even become valid.

According to the Referendum Act, a referendum can only be passed if half of all eligible voters cast ballots and more than half of the ballots cast support the measure.

The proposal is vetoed if the number of voters who cast ballots does not reach the threshold or the measure does not get majority support.

Taiwan has put six national referendum questions to voters since the Referendum Act came into effect in Jan. 2004, and all have fallen short of the 50 percent participation threshold, despite being held in conjunction with national elections in 2004 and 2008.

As of Friday evening, the opposition continued to occupy the podium, with KMT lawmakers pledging to keep seeking their right to proceed.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Anti-Nuclear Action League said that if KMT lawmakers insist that a referendum should be held, they should at least provide reports of the plant's construction quality to prove that the project is worthy of continued spending.

The government should also promote an amendment to the Referendum Act to loosen the requirements for a referendum to be passed, the league said. (By Zoe Wei, Chen Chun-hsieh, Chen Wei-ting, Tzeng Ying-yu and Elizabeth Hsu)

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