Mon, Jan 07, 2019 - Page 6 News List


KMT referendum backlash

It has been five weeks since the nine-in-one local elections. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has become intoxicated by its victories, but everyone knows that the party stops at nothing to reach its goals, so it is now waiting for the backlash over its manipulations to catch up with it.

The two egregious examples of manipulation are the referendums to “use nuclear power to nurture green energy” (以核養綠) and the “anti-nuclear food” (反核食) referendums, as they have become known colloquially.

The “anti-nuclear food” referendum to maintain a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures instituted after the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster was a model obscurantist referendum. It could also be called a “nonsense referendum,” but the KMT still insisted on holding it.

The text of this referendum, which was proposed by KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), read: “Do you agree that the government should, in connection to the March 11 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster, continue to enforce the food imports ban on 31 regions in Japan, including agricultural and food products from Fukushima and the surrounding four prefectures and municipalities (Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba)?”

That was misleading, as it made the public think that all agricultural products from these areas might be contaminated. The outcome of the referendum was a given. It is as if voters had been asked if they wanted to eat excrement.

As expected, almost 7.8 million voters supported the referendum, against only more than 2.2 million who rejected it, and all food product imports from these areas will now be banned, even if they are free of contamination.

What will be the outcome of this result? The KMT does not care, but Japan does: It has filed a complaint with the WTO and announced that Taiwan has missed another opportunity to be allowed into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which took effect on Dec. 30 last year.

The CPTPP members have a combined population of 500 million people. Taiwanese trade within this area could be as high as US$100 billion, while its annual agricultural product imports from Japan amount to no more than US$600 million to US$700 million. The value of products from the five prefectures is even smaller, while Taiwanese agricultural exports to Japan are worth US$700 million to US$800 million each year.

The KMT intentionally misled and deceived the public, encouraged hatred of Japan and curried favor with China, even though Beijing relaxed its ban on Japanese food imports in November last year and it is very possible that it will join South Korea and remove the ban altogether. Taiwan, on the other hand, has its hands tied for the next two years because of the referendum outcome.

What will happen if the KMT wins back government power next year, decides to start up the unfinished Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) and disregards the consequences of permanently banning Japanese agricultural imports? The KMT owes us all an answer.

Chen Chih-ko

New Taipei City

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