Sat, Dec 22, 2018 - Page 8 News List

China fever sweeping politics a health risk

By John Yu 于則章

As African swine fever (ASF) continues to spread across China, the Taiwanese government is on the alert, tightening inspections on incoming passengers. Thirty-three travelers were caught smuggling meat products from ASF-affected areas within three days after newly increased fines came into effect.

Quite a few Taiwanese are still unaware of the situation and continue to believe the Chinese government’s propaganda, insisting that ASF is harmless to humans and taking the preventive measures lightly.

When the government on Wednesday last week sent an alert about ASF through an emergency text message system previously used for disaster prevention, it was criticized as making a fuss over a trifle.

Some pro-China Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators even condemned the move, saying that sending such a message would have the opposite effect of lowering people’s alertness as the government was crying wolf.

When the disease first started spreading in northeast China in August, some sheep in Heilongjiang Province were also reported to be infected with anthrax.

Media reports said that 255 sheep were slaughtered following the anthrax outbreak. As anthrax can be transmitted among animals and humans, it also infected 14 people.

Following last month’s nine-in-one elections, many people have been blinded by “China fever,” hoping that the so-called “1992 consensus” would make them rich. To them, the ASF and anthrax epidemic has been a sharp blow.

The “1992 consensus” refers to a tacit agreement between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

If China cannot even control ASF, which can only be transmitted among pigs, who can believe that it is capable of controlling anthrax, which can be transmitted to humans, or keep it from spreading to Taiwan?

What is more, most Chinese food producers have long valued profit over ethics. There have been media reports that cheap lamb products manufactured by a food processing factory in Jinan in Shandong Province were a mixture of lamb and fox.

One industry insider revealed that some lamb products were made of duck and pork. Indeed, a random DNA test of lamb chops by a local food and drug agency showed that they did not contain any sheep DNA.

Under such circumstances, if any Chinese food processor sneaks anthrax-tainted lamb into other processed meat for sale, that could have unimaginably serious consequences.

As for human anthrax infections, more than 95 percent of cases are skin infections. Without proper treatment, the risk of death is between 10 and 40 percent.

As the ASF and anthrax threats get increasingly severe, Taiwanese should not hope that recognition of the “1992 consensus” can be exchanged for Beijing’s support for Kaohsiung mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) slogan: “Get the goods out and tourists in, so everyone can make a fortune.” (東西賣得出去,人進得來,大家發大財)

Nor should we be so naive as to believe in the Chinese government’s irresponsible propaganda that eating ASF-contaminated pork is harmless — and therefore risk Chinese meat products entering illegally into Taiwan.

If there were an ASF outbreak in the nation’s hog industry, the total financial losses could exceed NT$180 billion (US$5.8 billion). In the end, the whole nation may have to suffer before anyone makes a fortune.

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