On Jan. 15, Tainan City Councilor Lee Chong-lim (李宗霖) of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party posted on Facebook a photograph of a pack of Chinese-made Liuzhou Snail Rice Noodles, describing its packaging as “united front” propaganda to promote unification with China.
“You are Chinese and so am I, so after rounding up, you are all my people,” the packaging reads.
The post drew a lot of public attention, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs said it would take measures to deal with the issue, including pulling all illegal products from the shelves. The Taiwan Statebuilding Party has duly performed its public duty in a democracy of scrutinizing the government.
However, another opposition party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), working in tandem with the pro-China media, claimed that the Liuzhou Snail Rice Noodles incident is nothing but an “anti-China” scheme hatched by the pan-green camp.
The KMT seems to be defending these illegally imported products, which have also raised food safety concerns. Ironically, it was this same group of KMT politicians who, at the end of 2021, tried to ban US pork imports on the pretext of ensuring food safety and safeguarding the public’s well-being. The KMT also proposed a referendum and tried to interrupt the legal, standard process of importing US meat.
In addition to Chinese aggression and antagonism toward Taiwan, the issue of food safety in China has long been a problem. Several food-related incidents have been exposed in China, including fake eggs, fake soy sauce, industrial salt mixed with edible salt, plastic rice and milk tainted with melamine. Given China’s strict censorship and control over freedom of speech, these food safety issues uncovered by the media are only the tip of the iceberg.
China’s totalitarian government lacks an independent judicial system, and the Chinese public is restricted from keeping a check on their officials. At the same time, the corrupt bureaucracy and unprincipled businesspeople work together to maximize profits for themselves.
All these factors have given rise to a syndicate of interest groups thriving in an unscrupulous food industry. The victims of food safety issues are therefore unable to receive compensation and those who dare to tell the truth might even be arrested for “instigating quarrels and provoking trouble.”
It is well-known that Chinese do not trust their own food, which is why they buy milk powder, medicine and food in bulk from markets in Hong Kong, Macau, Kinmen and other parts of the world.
What is at stake is not Liuzhou Snail Rice Noodles itself. The key issue that deserves the public’s attention is the potential loopholes in Taiwan’s import inspection process and the sample testing of consumer goods.
Rampant smuggling of products poses a danger to Taiwan’s food safety. If the smuggled goods are agricultural and fishery products, pests and viruses might be brought in, and the local industry would be severely harmed. In addition, the act of smuggling is unfair to honest business operators.
The public should consider seriously the problems revealed by the Liuzhou Snail Rice Noodles incident, instead of listening to hearsay or spreading rumors.
Meanwhile, the government should examine existing protocols and take action against smuggled food products. It must scrutinize itself critically and take action against China.
Hong Tsun-ming, who is originally from Hong Kong, is an international affairs specialist at the Taiwan Statebuilding Party.
Translated by Liu Yi-hung
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