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Chaos again in hearings on Japan imports

Taoyuan, Taipei and New Taipei councilors boycotted four local public hearings Sunday, claiming that the meeting were merely showpieces organized to pave the way for the lifting of a 2011 ban on food products imported from five Japanese prefectures affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee ordered the Cabinet to hold 10 public hearings before further deliberating the possibility of easing the ban.

However, the Cabinet gave only one day’s notice before the hearings, which began Saturday and are “hastily squeezed” into three consecutive days, Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an said.

Citing procedural law, Chiang said that notice on public hearings must be announced 10 days in advance.

“Such recklessness gives citizens no chance to actually participate in the debate,” which in this case could ultimately “jeopardize their health,” he said.

Also in attendance at the public hearings were KMT Legislator Alex Fai, Aboriginal Legislator Kao Chin Su-mei and Taipei City Councilors Wang Hsin-yi, Li-Keng Kuei-Fong and Angela Ying.

The public hearing held at the New Taipei City Farmers’ Association on Sunday morning turned violent as KMT councilors argued with government officials and citizens who supported letting in food products from the radiation-affected regions.

Protesters chanted, “Tsai is placating Tokyo” and “illegitimate meeting,” while holding placards reading, “The government is betraying its conscience.”

Some participants at the hearings shouted back, “Can you let us listen to the report?” and “Let the hearing continue!”

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang accused the KMT of acting like a gang, saying that the behavior of the party’s legislators and city councilors shut down any conversation and denied the public their right to information.

Officials Bid to Reassure Public

The debate over whether to allow food products from the five nuclear-affected prefectures of Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba has proved a divisive issue among the public in addition to political parties.

The main opposition KMT wants the ban to stay in place. It accuses the government of wanting to forfeit the people’s health to boost diplomatic ties with Tokyo.