Sun, Jan 03, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Candidates spar on pork, vote-buying

DECISIONMAKING:Chu accused Tsai of striking a deal with the US on pork imports, which she turned around by pointing out that he changed his stance on the issue

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Presidential candidates, from left, Eric Chu of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), James Soong of the People First Party and Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party join hands before the start of the final televised presidential debate in Taipei yesterday.

Photo provided by the organizers of the debate

The three presidential candidates yesterday crossed words in the second and final televised debate, with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) continuing to question Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) over campaign irregularities and the controversial KMT party assets issue, while Chu questioned Tsai’s stance on importing US pork products and People First Party (PFP) candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) asked Tsai and Chu to clarify their stances on cross-strait economic exchanges.

The two-and-a-half-hour debate, broadcast by Sanlih E-Television (SET-TV), began with the candidates delivering their opening statements, followed by questions selected from a list proposed by the public before questioning each other. The debate ended with the candidates each making a final statement.

As soon as candidates could pose questions to each other, Chu asked Tsai why she has changed her stance on importing US pork products, criticizing her for overlooking the interests of pig farmers and public health.

“Chairperson Tsai shocked us during the last presidential debate when she said that she has made a U-turn and now agrees on importing [US pork products]. We remember that the DPP has always insisted on zero tolerance [of ractopamine], calling [US meat] ‘poisonous pork’ and ‘poisonous beef,’” Chu said. “Chairperson Tsai, why have you changed your stance? Did you make a secret deal with the Americans during your visit to the US in June [last year]? Did you talk to pig farmers and members of the public before making the change? Did you organize any public hearings on it? Is this your special ‘Ing’s clique’ (英派) opaque decisionmaking process? Is unconditionally accepting another nation’s demands your decisionmaking model?”

Tsai defended herself, accusing Chu of trying to apply false labels to her, despite her repeated explanations.

Tsai said the DPP has always insisted on following the international standard on ractopamine. However, before the Codex Alimentarius Commission voted on a standard for ractopamine residue in 2012, “there was no international standard, and thus zero tolerance was our caucus’ position,” she said.

She rejected Chu’s allegation that she made a secret deal during her visit to the US, adding that Taiwan is still far from allowing imports of US pork products, which would not happen until after prolonged and complicated negotiations.

“It is really too early to talk about this issue, and I have made it clear that I will not change my stance, which is to protect the health of our people, and pig farmers’ interests will absolutely not be sacrificed,” Tsai said.

Tsai then returned the argument, accusing Chu of being the one who has changed stance on the US pork issue.

“During your visit to the US [in November last year], you said that if neighboring countries share the same position on the US pork issue, Taiwan should not be different from others. How would you explain the change in your stance?” Tsai asked.

“Perhaps you really care about public health, but I think that you are more concerned with political manipulation for the sake of your campaign and sticking labels on me,” she added.

Meanwhile, Soong said he is “strongly reserved” about importing US pork products — a position he explained at a post-debate news conference as “objection.”

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