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Protesters in Taiwan demonstrate against lifting of Japanese food import ban

TAIPEI -- A demonstration against the easing of import regulations on Japanese food was held here on Dec. 25, in a show of lingering concerns over the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The protest -- which according to organizers consisted of approximately 15,000 people largely related to the opposition Nationalist Party -- was a demonstration against the Taiwanese authorities' decision earlier this year to lift a ban on Japanese food imports from Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures -- which all neighbor Fukushima Prefecture -- as well as Chiba Prefecture.

Prior to the protest, a hearing on the easing of regulations was due to take place in New Taipei City on Dec. 25, but civilized discussion became impossible once the angered visitors became disorderly and started jostling with the police.

The food import ban -- which the ruling Democratic Progressive Party decided to lift after having taken office in May 2016 -- was imposed by Taiwan's previous president, Ma Ying-jeou, following the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 2011. The ban applied to Japanese food imported from five Japanese prefectures -- namely Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, and Chiba.

However, following the new government's decision to lift the ban on food from four of the five banned prefectures, there has been a backlash within Taiwan, predominantly from the Nationalist Party and environmental groups. Protesters have stated that, "Taiwan is importing polluted 'nuclear disaster food' from Japan that even Japanese people do not eat."

Although the lifting of the import ban involves food that circulates in Japanese markets, the escalation of the issue in the public domain is fuelling Taiwanese consumers' anxiety concerning Japanese food overall.

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