Fri, Dec 02, 2016 - Page 3 News List

KMT pushes for a referendum on food import ban

GALVANIZED DISPUTESHolding a plebiscite on the issue would be a realization of democracy by giving the public a direct say, KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin said

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

A group of women yesterday hold up placards at a news conference held by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus in Taipei urging the government to keep a ban on food products imports from five Japanese prefectures.

Photo: CNA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday called for a referendum on easing a food import ban from five Japanese prefectures to “stop the addle-brained government,” as the KMT caucus announced plans to launch a nationwide petition to exert further pressure on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.

“On Tuesday, Japan’s Interchange Association Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi criticized Taiwan’s concerns about potentially radiation-contaminated Japanese food products as ‘unsubstantiated comments’ and called on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) government to lift the import ban,” Hau said on Facebook.

The DPP’s attempts to “sacrifice public food safety in exchange for diplomatic relations” in the past six months have galvanized disputes and public unrest, Hau said, adding he regrets that the Tsai administration has chosen to act against public opinion.

Hau said that when a government is turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to people’s opposition and anger, the only remaining option is to resort to direct democracy and check and balance the DPP’s legislative majority via a referendum.

“Despite the high threshold for passing referendums, this is people’s last resort to stopping an addle-brained government,” he added.

Given that all six referendums held since the 2003 promulgation of the Referendum Act (公民投票法) were initiated by political parties and centered on political issues, a plebiscite on the import ban would be a true realization of giving people a direct say in public affairs, Hau said.

Hau’s office said the proposed referendum would not be initiated by the party, but rather through cooperation with civic groups.

According to the act, a referendum proposal requires signatures from no less than 0.5 percent of the total number of voters in the latest presidential election. After the proposal is reviewed, the second stage is to gather signatures from 5 percent of voters for a referendum to be set up.

A 50 percent turnout of eligible voters is also required for a referendum to be declared legitimate.

Hau made the remarks amid reports that the government is mulling lifting the ban it imposed on food products from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures in March 2011.

KMT Culture and Communications Committee deputy director Tang Te-ming (唐德明), in response to media inquiries about Hau’s plan, said that the party is campaigning nationwide with a signature drive, but a referendum is the public’s right, so it would be a good way to express public discontent.

Separately yesterday, the KMT caucus held a news conference at the legislature to announce its plan to initiate a nationwide petition on Sunday to deter the government from relaxing the import ban.

“We have repeatedly stressed the importance of food safety. The KMT caucus’ stance is to safeguard public health, given that our government has played dumb and acted against the people. We must resort to direct public opinion,” KMT caucus Secretary-General Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said.

Chiang welcomed efforts by civic groups proposing a referendum.

Additional Reporting by Shih Hsiao-kuang

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