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Agencies blasted for dereliction of duty on tobacco factory project

2015/08/17 22:50:30

Taipei, Aug. 17 (CNA) A group of anti-tobacco activists filed a complaint with the Control Yuan on Monday, accusing three Cabinet agencies of dereliction of duty and legal violations after allowing an international tobacco producer to build a factory in Taiwan.

John Tung Foundation Chief Executive Officer Yau Sea-wain (姚思遠), Consumers' Foundation Vice Chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄), and two celebrity volunteers filed the accusation against the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Health Promotion Administration.

The activists called on the Control Yuan to stop the construction of a planned factory by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) in the Tainan Technology Industrial Park in southern Taiwan.

The Control Yuan is the government body that investigates and censures civil servants and public agencies for improper behavior.

Citing the Statute for Investment by Foreign Nationals, Yau said the regulations prohibit foreign investors from investing in sectors that are harmful to people's health.

The MOEA, however, has only classified the tobacco manufacturing sector as an industry in which foreign and expatriate investors are "restricted" from investing instead of "prohibited" from investing.

The MOEA's regulation obviously "violates the mother law," Yau said.

Health authorities also failed to alert the MOEA as it reviewed the JTI investment application in 2013 that Taiwan observes the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organization (WHO), Yau charged.

Under the convention, tobacco is defined as a lethal product and therefore WHO member-governments are restrained from providing preferential treatment to the establishment of new tobacco companies or an expansion of the industry.

The JTI applied to build a production line in Taiwan two years ago with an investment of NT$9.2 billion (US$283 million). The project was given the green light last year after the investor secured a plot of land in an industrial park in Tainan, according to the MOEA.

Yau said that because the health authorities did not provide enough data or express opposition to the investment project, the MOEA not only approved it but also included the plan in its preferential land leasing program for investors in industrial parks.

The practice violates the WHO's convention, Yau argued.

JTI, the international tobacco division of Japan Tobacco, is one of the world's largest makers of tobacco products. Headquartered in Geneva, the company sells its brands, including Mevius (formerly called as Mild Seven) and More, in more than 100 countries.

(By Lu Hsin-huei and Elizabeth Hsu)