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Anti-nuke groups move ‘open-ended’ protest to Zhongxiao West Road
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-27 08:10 PM
Anti-nuclear groups staging a demonstration against continuing construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant have vowed to occupy one of the city’s major streets until the government responds to their demands.

On Sunday afternoon The National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform and a number of other environmental and civic groups led a throng of protesters estimated as high as 50,000 from Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office to Zhongxiao West Road in front of Taipei Station where they laid themselves down in the road as if taking part in a simulated nuclear disaster drill, blocking off a critical artery in the city’s network of streets and roads.

On their way to Zhongxiao West Road the protesters marched along Zhongshan South Road, Changde Street, Gongyuan Road, Xiangyang Road and Guanqian Road, according to organizers of the protest, who include groups such as the Green Citizens' Action Alliance and Citizen of the Earth.

Taipei police took steps early Sunday in anticipation of reports that the protesters planned to move north to the Taipei Station area and attempt to block traffic on Zhongxiao West Road, which runs east and west in front of the station. An additional force of about 2000 police officers was dispatched to the vicinity of the station even as protest leaders were still in discussions about relocating the crowd of protesters from Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Building to Taipei Station.

Police originally said they planned to give one traffic lane over to the protesters if necessary, with further action to be decided on as the situation developed. They warned that If there were any outbreaks of violence or the protesters deliberately attempted to paralyze traffic in the Taipei Station area, they would first try to persuade the crowd to relocate to parking areas around the station, otherwise they said they would have no choice but to remove the demonstrators by force.

Hourly traffic flow on Zhongxiao West Road is usually more than 3,000 vehicles during rush periods, and many local buses disgorge and pick up passengers on both sides of the road in front of the station. The strategy of marching from Ketagalan Boulevard to the Taipei Station area to stage a sit-in is a real threat to wreak havoc on traffic in a large area of Taipei City if their stay extends into the traffic rush period Monday morning.

The demonstrators are demanding that the government immediately halt construction of the fourth nuclear power plant in New Taipei's Gongliao District and decommission the existing three operating nuclear power plants, saying that otherwise they will stage protests for an indefinite period of time. They also called for lowering the voter turnout threshold for holding a national referendum on the fate of the fourth nuclear plant.

Existing guidelines for any referendum require the participation of more than half of the country's eligible voters for a referendum to be valid.

Meanwhile Fan-chiang Tai-chi, Director of the KMT’s Publicity Bureau, announced that the party had decided to put a hold on construction of the First Unit of the fourth plant until safety tests can be been carried out and there is no question about the safety of the unit, while construction of the Second Unit will be halted until a referendum can be held to determine whether or not it should be resumed.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who is also the Chairman of the KMT, met with Premier Jiang Yi-huah and KMT mayors and county magistrates from around the island in Taipei Sunday afternoon. Fan-chiang told reporters afterward that the officials had reached a consensus on two points. First of all, construction will be suspended on the First Unit and safety inspections will be carried out, then the unit will be sealed, while all work on the Second Unit will come to a halt. The second point was a decision that the Executive Yuan would call a meeting with the National Energy Committee to establish whether Taiwan will be able to meet its energy needs in the future.

Following the meeting with mayors and magistrates, Premier Jiang went to the church where former DPP Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung is staging a hunger strike in protest of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Jiang had hoped to inform Lin that the KMT leaders had decided to halt construction on the plant until the above matters can be resolved. Jiang was met by a raucous crowd outside the church, however, and was not able to go inside to speak with Lin. He talked briefly with church officials instead and then left.

Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) was quick to respond to the government’s announcement that work on the plant would be suspended. Company officials warned that halting construction would mean that much of the funds, materials and time that have been spent on constructing the two units to date would go to waste and the firm could face losses up to NT$330 billion on the project. They noted that a setback of that size could very well throw the company into bankruptcy.

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