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September 23, 2017

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KMT lawmakers urge referendum on Japanese imports

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The fate of a ban on food imports produced in nuclear-affected regions of Japan should be decided by referendum, Kuomintang (KMT) legislators said Thursday.

"We must vote to let President Tsai Ing-wen know she has deviated far from the public will," KMT caucus whip Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) said Thursday, as the opposition party announced it would begin collecting signatures for a referendum.

KMT legislative caucus Secretary-General Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣) claimed that more than 75 percent of the public opposes an easing of the ban on food products from Japan's nuclear-affected regions.

"I don't know if the Tsai administration is playing deaf or if it just cannot understand what the people really want," Chiang said.

KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) accused the government of being weak, saying, it "just wants to suck up to" Tokyo.

The remarks came on the heels of the 41st annual Taiwan-Japan Trade and Economic Meeting, during which Japan Interchange Assocation (JIA) Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi said, "There is no legal basis for Taiwan's recent talk about some Japanese food being contaminated by radiation."

"Such language has caused great harm to the Japanese people," he continued.

KMT Legislator Fai Hrong-tai (費鴻泰) said, "The Japanese government doesn't care about the well-being of Taiwanese people, and the ruling party is sacrificing the health of citizens for its own party interest."

Fai further suggested that the Referendum Act be amended, saying the threshold to establish a formal case is too high.

Sanction Relief for EPA?

KMT lawmaker Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) on Thursday demanded the minutes from Tsai's meeting with the JIA chairman.

Hsu said that, shortly after the opening ceremony of the annual Trade and Economic Meeting on Tuesday, Tsai had received Mitsuo Ohashi at the Presidential Office to discuss the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA).

"The government is seeking an economic partnership with the Japanese by compromising on the food ban," Hsu said.

The food ban was imposed in 2011 after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Food products from five nuclear-affected prefectures of Japan — Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Chiba — have since been barred from Taiwan.

The Cabinet announced in October that it was seeking to relieve the sanctions with a two-stage approach, which would eventually allow imports from all prefectures except Fukushima.

A Hearing of a Different Name

The Cabinet on Thursday organized a pre-meeting on the nuclear-affected imports issue in advance of three public hearings slated for later in the month.

Ten public hearings were held last month across the country, but most of them adjourned abruptly after demonstrators and KMT councilors boycotted them, alleging that procedural errors rendered them illegitimate.

The Cabinet then promised to arrange three more public hearings to consolidate public opinion.

Thursday's meeting still failed to address critical matters, but did end in a consensus on the name of the public hearing itself, following an hours-long argument between government officials, KMT legislators and civic group representatives.

The original name drafted by the Cabinet was "public hearing on the safety and risk of Japanese food imports."

After the meeting, the name was revised to, "public hearing on risk assessment and the management of post-nuclear disaster Japanese foods, and on whether to allow food products from Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba."

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