Protests back anti-nuclear hunger strike

PARTICIPATION::Although protests can inconvenience the public, anti-nuclear activists must continue because the government never seems to listen, a civic group said

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Apr 24, 2014 - Page 1

Following the start of former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Lin I-hsiung’s (林義雄) hunger strike on Tuesday to force the government to terminate the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, groups and activists across the nation yesterday supported his cause by staging protests.

In front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday morning, Anti-nuclear Alliance of Fathers executive director Kobe Chih (池國平) announced that following an anti-nuclear road-running event planned for Saturday morning, the group will invite about 3,000 people to form the words “NO NUKE NOW” in English at about 9am on Ketagalan Boulevard.

The 7km “run away from nuclear energy” race organized by the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), Anti-nuclear Alliance of Fathers and the DPP, was rescheduled for 7am on Saturday and is to start and end on Ketagalan Boulevard.

“If President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government does not want to be encircled by barricades or by the public, it should start communicating soon,” Chih said, adding that the group will occupy Ketagalan Boulevard until it receives an acceptable response from the government.

TEPU secretary-general Andy Tung (董建宏) said there are three legal ways to terminate the construction of the pact in Gongliao (貢寮), New Taipei City, — the Executive Yuan proposes a plan supported by the legislature; the legislature initiates a resolution and the Executive Yuan does not table a reconsideration motion against it; or the Referendum Act (公民投票法) is amended to address the aspects of it seen as unreasonable so the public can decide on the issue through a fair vote.

“We and many [non-governmental] organizations are actively striving for reconciliation between the government and the public, but if the government refuses to reconcile, is that not declaring a war against the public?” he said.

Chih said social movements can inconvenience the public, but the activists have no option but to continue using various protest measures to express their opinions, because the government never seems to listen, see or respond to its citizens’ demands.

At noon, about 200 people organized by the National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform rallied in front of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) headquarters in Taipei, before the party held its Central Standing Committee meeting at 1pm.

Green Citizen Action Alliance deputy secretary-general Hung Shen-han (洪申翰) said the government has been saying that “the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will not operate without ensured nuclear safety and a referendum,” but the current nuclear plant safety inspection mechanism is flawed.

Calling the government’s safety inspection mechanism fraudulent, he said the safety inspections will not conclude that the plant is “unsafe” because if Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) finds any problems in its test runs, it can discuss them with reactor designer General Electric Co to find “alternative solutions,” and easily pass newly amended standards for the inspections.

Hung said that while an opinion poll showed that more than 70 percent of people are in favor of aborting the construction of the plant, Ma and top KMT officials are still trying to make it operational by lying to the public about its safety.

Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries organizer Liu Nien-Yun (劉念雲) said: “Civic discussions on public issues recently have shown that the public may have more in-depth knowledge on certain issues than policymakers,” but the government has always avoided civic participation.

“Nuclear power issues have become a problem of ‘democracy,’” she said.

Northern Coast Anti-Nuclear Action Alliance chief executive Kuo Ching-lin (郭慶霖) said the government is used to deceiving the public, never allowing the public to have a say on nuclear power policies, including when the operating nuclear power plants were constructed in his hometown.

The groups also said that no country using nuclear energy has yet developed a safe disposal method for spent nuclear fuel, so it follows that Taiwan, as a small island nation, should not be generating electricity atomically at all if it has no way to store nuclear waste safely.

They urged the president to abort the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project and retire the nation’s three operating nuclear power plants as scheduled, while also calling on him to return the decisionmaking power to the people by amending the Referendum Act to lower its threshold.

Shouting: “Safety inspection is dead, return the life of democracy,” and throwing leaflets in the air, the anti-nuclear protesters pushed toward the KMT headquarters building, saying that “if the KMT does not respond to them, they will push their demands forward.”

The advancement sparked minor verbal and physical clashes between the activists and the dozens of police officers encircling them.

The scuffles settled down shortly after Hung asked the protesters to take a step back and announced that if the government does not give them a satisfactory response by today, they will join the protest on Ketagalan Boulevard on Saturday.

Lin’s campaign is also drawing support outside Taipei.

In New Taipei City, several activists showed their support for Lin by holding a sit-in protest in front of the New Taipei City Government building, while in Haulien City, activists announced that they would hold an anti-nuclear evening event at a public square every night until Lin’s fast is over.

In Yilan County, unknown anti-nuclear advocates scattered apple snail shells in front of the KMT’s branch headquarters and hung an anti-nuclear flag on the wall.