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September 20, 2017

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Thousands protest over 'nuke food'

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Thousands took to the streets to protest the proposed lifting of a ban on food products from radiation-affected areas of Japan, following an inconclusive public hearing on the matter Sunday morning.

The Kuomintang (KMT)-organized march kicked off with remarks from KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱).

"We will not tolerate our children being endangered by food products contaminated by radiation," Hung said.

Hung urged the crowd of protestors to convey their dissent to the government as they marched from Aiguo East Road near Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and down Ketagalan Boulevard to the Ministry of Finance at Aiguo West Road.

Representatives from various demographics, including housewives, young parents and expecting parents, spoke out in turn before the march began.

The diversity of backgrounds represented at the march "reflected the 74 percent of all Taiwanese nationals who oppose lifting the ban on food imports from five Japanese regions affected by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster," the march's organizers claimed.

Expecting father Chen Hsiao-wei (陳孝威) expressed concerns that food imports from radiation-affected areas had already made their way into Taiwan.

Chen said he "did not understand any of the figures and numbers" presented by the government's experts about the imports and only wanted to know why "Taiwanese people should eat these food products when the Koreans, Chinese, and Australians are not eating them."

In a move that both served as a visual pun and was reminiscent of Latin America's "pots and pans" protests, "new immigrants" — a term commonly used to refer to immigrants from Southeast Asia — attended the march with small pans and spatulas in hand to object to feeding their children potentially harmful food.

These mothers chose to "bravely speak out and bring their children to the march" to safeguard the welfare of the next generation, a representative of the new immigrant mothers told reporters.

A Failed Public Hearing

Earlier in the day, protestors and KMT legislators attended a public hearing at the Taipei Innovation City Convention Center in New Taipei City's Xindian District.

The public hearing, which was intended to address the assessment and management of products from the five regions, failed to get past the explanation of the hearing's rules after repeated outbursts from audience members.

Cabinet Spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) later said that "some people deliberately showed up (to the hearing) to provoke hatred."

After moderator Chu Tseng-hung (朱增宏) spent most of the morning asking for decorum, legislators and NGO representatives present decided it was best for the public hearing to be downgraded to an informal forum that would hold no legal weight.

KMT Legislator Kao Chin Su-mei (高金素梅) said procedures for the hearing were "unjust" and that incorrect information was being disseminated. "The government is using technical issues to continue to beat around the bush (on this issue)," Kao Chin said during the hearing.

KMT Legislator Wayne Chiang (蔣萬安) said people's voices were being omitted. At the march in the afternoon, he told the crowds, "The public hearing was not conducted in accordance with the principle of procedural justice."

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