Government calls for rational discussion amid anti-nuclear rally
Central News Agency
2014-03-08 10:48 PM
Taipei, March 8 (CNA) Tens of thousands of people around Taiwan took to the streets Saturday calling for a nuclear-free homeland, and the government responded by calling for rational discussion on how to gradually cut the country's reliance on nuclear energy. As protesters called for the controversial fourth nuclear plant project to be scrapped, Executive Yuan spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said the government fully understood and respected diverse voices from the people. "The government hopes to continue to communicate with the public in a rational way and to seriously think about Taiwan's future," Sun said. Taiwan relies on imports for 98 percent of its energy needs, Sun said, and argued that from the perspective of energy independence, safety, stability and diversity, no source of energy could be abandoned at present. In Taipei, thousands of protesters unfurled banners reading "Against nuclear power -- no more Fukushima," "I am a human being, and I am against nuclear power," and "I love Taiwan, no nuclear disasters." Joined by people gathering at three spots -- the plaza in front of Wellcome Supermarket in Daan District, the intersection of Linsen North Rd. and Nanjing East Rd., and National Taiwan University's main entrance -- the three-hour march finished at 5 p.m. in front of the Presidential Office. It was followed by a vigil that lasted until 9:30 p.m.

Organizers estimated the turnout for the Taipei rally at 80,000, while the National Policy Agency put the number of participants at around 32,450 nationwide, including 22,000 in Taipei, 2,500 in Taichung, 6,200 in Kaohsiung, 800 in Taitung. Tsui Su-hsin, secretary-general of the Green Citizen Action's Alliance, said the government has continued to build the fourth nuclear power plant and extended the service period of Taiwan's three active nuclear plants even though a majority of Taiwan's people are anti-nuclear. Calling 2014 the most critical year for the anti-nuclear movement, Tsui said it would initiate "a civil disobedience" campaign to tell the government that Taiwan does not want nuclear power. Tsui called for everyone to use their own means to "say to the government we will disobey and not cooperate." Anti-nuclear groups asked President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah to take administrative responsibility and stop construction of the controversial fourth nuclear power plant immediately. The legislative caucuses of other political parties should also pass anti-nuclear bills and resolutions, scrap budgets for the fourth nuclear power plant and revise laws to lower the threshold for referendums in Taiwan. Many heavyweights from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, including DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang, former DPP chiefs Tsai Ing-wen and Frank Hsieh, former Vice President Annette Lu and former Premier Yu Shyi-kun, took part in the rally and marched to Ketagalan Boulavard outside the Presidential Office. Two hopefuls from the pro-DPP camp for Taipei mayor -- National Taiwan University Hospital surgeon Ko Wen-je and lawyer Wellington Koo -- also participated. Kuomintang Legislator Ting Shou-chung, who is vying for his party's nomination in the Taipei mayor race, showed up at the entrance of the National Taiwan University to greet the participants. Among the protesters were parents pushing strollers and young people putting on frightening makeup to portray radiation victims. Many celebrities also joined the march, including directors Wu Nien-jen, Ko I-chen and Wang Shau-di along with singer Desert Chang. A group comprised of activists, youths and gay people donned white protective clothing and set themselves flat on the ground in front of the Executive Yuan during the march. Taiwan has three active nuclear power plants that provide about 20 percent of the country's electricity. They are scheduled to be decommissioned between 2018 and 2025, and the fourth nuclear power plant, which would have 55 percent of the installed capacity of the three active plants, was expected to pick up some of the slack. Safety inspections on the fourth nuclear power plant are expected to run through June, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said earlier this year, and it hoped that installation of the plant's fuel rods could start by the end of this year if all goes well. The inspections were initiated to ease widespread public concerns over nuclear power after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan in 2011 following a massive earthquake and tsunami.

In Taichung, 1,800 people used cardboard to spell a "No" logo, while in Kaohsiung, the rally was held in a carnival atmosphere with marches and a concert. In Taitung, indigenous people, new immigrants and foreigners took to the streets, shouting for the removal of nuclear waste from Taitung County. (By Claudia Yeh, Zoe Wei, Chen Ching-ping and Lilian Wu)

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