Lifting of Fukushima food import ban disregards democracy: KMT

02/08/2022 05:59 PM
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KMT Chairman Eric Chu. CNA photo Feb. 7, 2022
KMT Chairman Eric Chu. CNA photo Feb. 7, 2022

Taipei, Feb. 8 (CNA) Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said on Tuesday the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had no right to ignore the result of a 2018 referendum and lift a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In a social media post, Chu argued that "no political parties are entitled to scrap the result" of the referendum, in which 78 percent voted in favor of maintaining the restrictions.

Earlier on Tuesday, Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) had announced an end to the 11-year ban on food from Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki, and Tochigi prefectures.

Chu said the 2018 referendum clearly showed the public's opposition to the importation of Japanese food "tainted with radioactive substances," adding that the government had a duty to protect a public that was highly concerned about food safety.

Despite acknowledging that Taiwan and Japan were long-time allies, Chu said there was "no room for compromise over the issue and no condition in exchange is attached to it," due to what he described as the harmful health effects of such food imports.

The leader of the Legislature's largest opposition party added his party would "never budge" from its current stance.

"The KMT will fight at the Legislative Yuan and work with local governments and councils to help safeguard the public's health," Chu said.

Regarding the future of batch-by-batch border inspections for radioactive residue in nine food product categories produced in other parts of Japan, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official said only that some checks would be carried out according to the level of risk.

The KMT
The KMT's press conference held to condemn the lifting of a ban on Japanese food imports. CNA photo Feb. 8, 2022

Speaking at a news conference later on Tuesday, KMT Legislator and caucus leader Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) criticized the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for lifting the ban without prior communication with opposition parties and the public.

He also rejected the Tsai administration's assertions that lifting the ban would ease entry into the Tokyo-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), saying Japan's representative to Taiwan had made it clear the two issues were not linked.

Former KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who initiated the 2018 referendum, said the government's decision represented an "unconditional surrender" to Tokyo, particularly given the 7.79 million votes cast in favor of the ban as well as a majority in an opinion poll conducted late last year.

He added that the DPP's actions showed a disregard for democracy and peoples' livelihoods, vowing to work with county- and city-level KMT governments to "safeguard public health."

Lawmakers of the Taiwan People
Lawmakers of the Taiwan People's Party urged the government to prioritize the public's health, noting that Taiwan's people were gravely concerned about the government's food safety management. CNA photo Feb. 8, 2022

Meanwhile, Taiwan People's Party (TPP) caucus whip Chiu Chen-yuan (邱臣遠) told reporters that the TPP did not oppose the government's lifting the ban.

However, Chiu said his party required full communication by the government with the public to assuage concerns, as well as introduce clear labeling and adequate management processes for the imports.

The TPP legislator said the government must prioritize the public's health, and that doing so would help end accusations of protecting partisan interests through political wrangling and ideological struggle.

In a statement, the New Power Party (NPP) said Taiwan's people were gravely concerned about the government's food safety management.

Although the public was well aware of the importance of Taiwan's participation in international organizations, a nod to the country's proposed membership of the CPTPP, the government still had a responsibility to vigorously safeguard the people's health when connecting to the world politically and economically, the NPP said.

In Taiwan, the food import issue has been highly contentious in the past few years, with the DPP government running into heavy domestic opposition when it first suggested lifting the ban shortly after it regained power in May 2016.

The DPP government has argued that resolving the decade-long Japanese food import ban will be helpful to Taiwan's application to join the Tokyo-led CPTPP.

(By Flor Wang, Liu Kuan-ting, Wang Yang-yu, Wang Cheng-chung, Kuo Chien-sheng)

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Update

Feb. 9: Majority of Taiwanese favor lifting ban on Fukushima food imports: DPP

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