Anti-nuclear activists protest outside KMT
DPP launches 20:14 human chain, president and premier discuss options
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-23 02:56 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Anti-nuclear activists protested outside the headquarters of the ruling Kuomintang Wednesday after its chairman, President Ma Ying-jeou, visited the church where former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung was holding a fast.

During the evening, there were reports that Premier Jiang Yi-huah had entered the Presidential Office Building, presumably to discuss a solution to the nuclear stalemate with the president as various options for a referendum looked more likely.

Lin began his hunger strike on Tuesday, calling on the government to scrap the building of the fourth nuclear plant, now nearing completion in Gongliao, New Taipei City. The government says it will wait for the outcome of a security review and call a referendum if the report is positive.

As Ma prepared to attend the regular weekly meeting of his party’s Central Standing Committee during the afternoon, members of Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, stood across the street to demand a nuclear-free country. “Ma Ying-jeou, how long are you going to keep hiding?” some protesters shouted amid clashes with police who prevented them from moving too close to the building.

DPP lawmakers called for 3,000 people to form a human chain from Lin’s church to the Presidential Office Building Thursday at 20:14 while holding up the light from their cell phones in a sign to the president. If the event succeeds, it would produce a 2.4-kilometer-long chain of light, organizers said.

Anti-nuclear groups have said that if the Ma Administration does not respond to Lin’s demands by Thursday, they will stage a mass protest outside the Presidential Office Building on Saturday.

Over 4,000 people had registered to take part in a run Saturday under the slogans “No Nuke Now” and “Run Away from Nuclear,” organizers said. The 7-km run would start at 7 a.m. on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building and also end there.

Other protests were already taking around the country, from walkabouts and sit-ins in Chiayi and Taichung to clashes outside the Legislative Yuan. DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang led a group of protesters to walk seven times around the legislative compound, a practice which the activists said they would perform each day of Lin’s fast.

DPP lawmaker Chen Ou-po also began a hunger strike Tuesday, spending most of his time outside the door of the main legislative chamber. According to an aide, doctors had found his blood pressure was high and had advised him to end his strike and seek medical treatment.

About a dozen members of the Taiwan Solidarity Union protested at the New Taipei City Government, demanding Mayor Eric Liluan Chu declare a halt to nuclear energy. Two of the country’s operating nuclear power plants as well as the fourth one are located on various parts of New Taipei City’s coastline. The protesters were forced to leave before a visit by Su, but they promised they would return.

In Yilan County, an anti-nuclear flag was hung on a local KMT office. Police were called in to investigate how somebody had managed to climb on the roof of the building, reports said.

Ma visited Lin on the second day of his hunger strike against the fourth nuclear plant Wednesday. As on Tuesday, Lin did not actually meet with his visitors, who so far signed a guestbook. Ma talked to the priest of the church where Lin is holding his fast and left a card, in which he promised that a referendum on the power plant’s fate would be held after the completion of safety tests. Government officials have insisted that the two Gongliao reactors will not start operating unless safety has been guaranteed.

Lin, who held a similar anti-nuclear hunger strike 20 years ago, wants the government to scrap the whole project, saying nuclear energy will never be safe, no matter what precautions are taken.

On Tuesday, Ma had let it be known that he “did not exclude” visiting Lin, after Jiang, Su and ex-DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen had already visited the site. After the president, Hau also went to Lin’s church, which used to be his home where his mother and his two small daughters were murdered in 1980 in what was widely seen as a political assassination. The mayor said a city medical team would stay in close touch with volunteers at the site to intervene in case Lin’s health deteriorated.

On the DPP side, a group of five local leaders including Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, Tainan Mayor William Lai and Chiayi County Magistrate Chang Hwa-kuan went to the church to support Lin.

The former DPP leader’s daughter, Judy Linton, reportedly wrote a letter Monday calling on Lin to keep up his fight but also to live for the sake of his five granddaughters.

Su said Wednesday he was willing to meet the president to discuss the nuclear issue, but asked Ma to give a positive response to Lin’s concerns. The president’s card showed contradictions, the opposition leader, mentioning the examples of Three Mile Island in the United States, Chernobyl in the Soviet Union and Fukushima in Japan. All three plants had been tested for safety before they operated, yet they still turned into major disasters, Su said. He also criticized the president for only wanting to hold a referendum after a safety review had been completed.

Former Premier Frank Hsieh described Ma as a president who was fast asleep and would never wake up to public opinion.

Different proposals have come from various KMT lawmakers, with Liao Cheng-ching proposing a freeze on the fourth plant and a referendum after the 2016 presidential election. His colleague Alex Tsai said a referendum would be needed, while on Tuesday, Lee Ching-hua, whose election district includes Gongliao, seemed to side with the opposition in a call on the government to dump the project.

About 24 hours into his fast, Lin appeared briefly, waving at reporters. He was wearing the same fisherman’s hat as during the March 18-April 10 student occupation of the Legislative Yuan, where he held a sit-in protest several times to express his support for the activists’ opposition against the trade-in-services pact with China.

The government has insisted that if the fourth nuclear plant were scrapped, the country could face power cuts. Earlier Ministry of Economic Affairs forecasts mentioned 2016 as the year in which the risk of a power shortage would arrive, but the Taiwan Power Corporation said Tuesday that 2018 was the most likely date. Power cuts would only become unavoidable in 2021 if the fourth plant was not used, Taipower reportedly said.

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