KMT-backed pork referendum drive to expand this weekend

09/11/2020 09:12 PM
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CNA photo Sept. 11, 2020
CNA photo Sept. 11, 2020

Taipei, Sept. 11 (CNA) The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) will expand its petition drive to across Taiwan this weekend as it takes a first step toward holding a referendum to oppose the government's decision to allow imports of American pork containing a banned veterinary drug.

The petition follows a decision announced by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Aug. 28 to set standards for residues of the veterinary drug ractopamine in imported pork and to allow imports of U.S. beef from cattle over 30 months old, starting Jan. 1, 2021.

The announcement was controversial because questions over the safety of meat containing ractopamine, which is still banned in Taiwan, have never been resolved.

It was also a policy reversal for Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party, which called meat containing ractopamine "toxic" when it was an opposition party and had insisted on "zero-tolerance" for the controversial drug in imported pork until Tsai's announcement.

At a press conference Friday to announce where in Taiwan people could sign the petition, Wang Yu-min (王育敏), the KMT's Culture and Communications Committee chairwoman, criticized Tsai for making the move without holding prior public discussions or subjecting it to scrutiny by Taiwan's Legislature.

Wang accused the government of ignoring people's health and the supervision of executive actions by lawmakers, and she urged people to support the holding of a referendum to decide whether to overturn the decision.

CNA photo Sept. 11, 2020
CNA photo Sept. 11, 2020

Under Taiwan's Referendum Act, referendums can take place every two years, with the next possible date being Aug. 28, 2021.

In order to hold a national referendum, the petition has to complete two stages for a national vote to be held.

The first stage only requires the signatures of 0.01 percent of voters in the most recent presidential election -- which would be 1,430 people based on the 2020 turnout of 14,300,940 voters.

If the petition reaches the second phase, it would require the signatures of 1.5 percent of voters -- or 214,514 people -- in the most recent presidential election for the referendum to be held.

The KMT started to collect endorsements for the first phase on a small scale on Sept. 6 but will expand the collection effort to all of Taiwan's 22 cities and counties this weekend.

Shui Yun-hsiang (水雲翔), director of the KMT's social volunteer department, said the party was hoping to get at least 10,000 signatures during the two weekend days.

Also at the press conference, KMT Taipei City councilor Li Ming-xian (李明賢), called for the public to join the petition to stand up to the pressure the U.S. has put on Taiwan to accept its meat products.

Li described the referendum as a nonpartisan effort to protect the country's food safety.

The government made the move to meet U.S. demands that Taiwan further open its markets to imports of U.S. beef and pork before possible talks on an eventual bilateral trade deal could be held.

The restrictions had been labeled as trade barriers in multiple reports by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

(By Liu Kuan-ting and William Yen)

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