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Anti-nuclear protesters besiege Legislative Yuan
Lin continuing fast: DPP lawmaker
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-29 02:59 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan Referendum Association leader Tsay Ting-kuei was reportedly injured Tuesday during clashes between police and supporters who tried to bar lawmakers from leaving the Legislative Yuan instead of handling the fourth nuclear plant.

Former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung was transferred to hospital Monday as he grew weaker after having started a hunger strike almost a week before, on April 22. However, he was still continuing his fast and would transfer to his native Yilan County once allowed to leave National Taiwan University Hospital, DPP lawmaker Tien Chiu-chin said.

The latest incidents followed a weekend of massive protests and a government announcement indicating a revision of its stance on the completion of the fourth nuclear plant in Gongliao, New Taipei City.

Protesters rejected the government decision as vague and half-hearted because it did not correspond to a total scrapping of the project. In addition, the DPP called on Premier Jiang Yi-huah to deliver a report about the sudden change of course about the plant, saying the Constitution required such a move.

Attention focused Tuesday on how the Legislature would solve the impasse about the premier’s report as the ruling Kuomintang caucus rejected its necessity. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said that if caucus negotiations failed to reach an agreement, the topic of the premier’s report might have to come up to a vote. The KMT holds 65 out of 113 seats, but one of its lawmakers, Lee Ching-hua, whose election district includes Gongliao, apparently agreed with the opposition demand for a special report. During the afternoon, opposition legislators occupied the podium to prevent any other activities from taking place.

Outside the Legislature, Tsay and his supporters said they would only allow lawmakers to enter the compound, but none to leave, because they should be inside discussing the nuclear plant.

When Tsay and his group tried to block a car belonging to KMT lawmaker Lin Ming-chen, police intervened and grabbed several protesters. During the scuffles, Tsay reportedly became unwell, fainted and fell to the ground. He was transferred to nearby National Taiwan University Hospital.

The protests were initially directed against several Kuomintang lawmakers, but DPP legislator Bikhim Hsiao also engaged in a war of words with activists, cable stations reported. The opposition politician said all she wanted to do was use the lunch break to return to her office to explain the local political situation to the foreign media, since the Legislative Yuan was not due to resume its activities until later in the afternoon.

Jiang’s car was also surrounded with protesters hitting it, reports said, but the premier succeeded in entering the chamber, even though he was not asked to answer questions from lawmakers.

Around 4 p.m., protesters crowded around a vehicle reportedly carrying KMT lawmaker Lu Chia-chen. Helmeted riot police were called in to help the car move out of its encirclement, reports said.

Activists also called on members of the public to congregate on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building Tuesday afternoon to prepare for a silent march to the Legislative Yuan to hand a “public opinion” notice and circle the compound four times.

The latest round of incidents followed a weekend of massive protests and the government decision to seal the fourth nuclear plant’s No.1 reactor after ongoing safety checks are completed and to suspend construction work on the No.2 reactor.

Premier Jiang insisted that the government decision was a concession, but did not amount to a complete end to the fourth nuclear project. After a referendum, later generations would still have the option of restarting the project, the government said. As on previous occasions, Cabinet members and the Taiwan Power Corporation warned that terminating the plant could trigger bankruptcy for the energy company as well as rising prices for the public.

The government also failed to address demands for a lower referendum threshold. All sides have been discussing the possibility of holding a nationwide plebiscite about the Gongliao plant, but under the existing Referendum Act, at least 50 percent of all eligible voters have to cast a ballot.

Anti-nuclear activists have demanded the abolition of the threshold, with the DPP filing a special legislative proposal for a nuclear referendum, but President Ma Ying-jeou and his administration have maintained this would undermine the legitimacy of referendums. Under the existing law, it was already possible for 25 percent of the public to decide on the fate of major policies, officials argued. Some senior KMT politicians, including New Taipei City Mayor Eric Liluan Chu, have uttered the possibility of revising the threshold.

Activists gathering in front of the Presidential Office Tuesday afternoon presented a proposal which would cut the minimum threshold for a vote to pass to 1 percent from 50 percent. Any referendum proposal would only need the support of 50 proponents followed by the signatures of 0.01 percent of voters, or 18,000 people, while the existing government referendum review commission would be abolished and time restrictions on a second referendum on the same subject would be simplified, reports said.

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