Several rounds of clashes erupted between protesters and the police as demonstrators tried both to push through and pull down the gate and fences of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday to get into the building to observe the voting on a proposed referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
More than 100 people from civic groups, brought together by the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), joined the protest against nuclear power and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) referendum proposal on the fate of the plant in Gongliao (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市).
The protesters began by staging a sit-in in the morning to listen as representatives took turns voicing their concerns, criticizing the “bird-cage” Referendum Act (公民投票法), calling for a end to the use of nuclear power in Taiwan and urging lawmakers not to go against public opinion.
“With the current referendum threshold requiring at least 50 percent of eligible voters to cast votes [for a referendum to be valid], the proposed question would be very difficult to approve, according to previous national referendum outcomes,” TEPU founding chairperson Shih Hsin-min (施信民) said.
The public is concerned about the construction quality at the plant, given the many corruption cases linked to the project that have already been uncovered, Shih said.
“Stopping the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is the consensus of the public, so the government should not spend so many resources to hold a referendum,” he said.
“A responsible government should provide clear explanations about its construction projects to the public and guarantee public safety,” said Shih Ying (史英), chairman of the Humanistic Education Foundation.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has asked KMT legislators to pass the proposed referendum during the second extraordinary legislative session — as if nuclear safety and the referendum are two separate issues, which shows just how disconnected the government is, Shih Ying said.
“It is like the principal of an elementary school who knows that the lunches prepared for the students have gone bad, but insists that the children should vote on whether they want to eat them,” said Liu Chin-hsin (劉進興), a former professor at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.
Near noon, Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan convener Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴) led protesters to one of the gates of the Legislative Yuan’s compound and told police officers lined up on the other side that the protesters “would ask three times to enter the Legislative Yuan as owners of the nation” to monitor the voting session.
If their request was refused, they would use stronger measures to try to enter the building, Tsay said.
After being told that it was against legislative rules to allow them in, the protesters began pushing at the gates.
While the pushing and shoving was taking place on one side of the compound, a senior-high school student surnamed Yu (游) was able to climb over the fence on the other side.
Police officers took him to the compound’s parking lot, where he sat quietly on the ground holding a sign that read “Stop construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.”
The demonstrators took a break before tackling the gates again in the afternoon, led by Tsai and 908 Taiwan Republic Campaign convener Peter Wang (王獻極). The attempt to get through the gates became more heated, as efforts were made to pull down the fences with ropes while water balloons, animal feces and paper leaflets were thrown over the fences.