Ex-DPP leader Lin Yi-hsiung starts anti-nuclear hunger strike

Premier Jiang visits Lin's church

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung began his hunger strike against the fourth nuclear plant on Earth Day Tuesday.
Incumbent DPP leader Su Tseng-chang and Premier Jiang Yi-huah visited him after he issued a statement while supporters of his cause protested outside the Legislative Yuan. President Ma Ying-jeou reportedly told environmentalists that he would not exclude visiting Lin too.
If the government did not respond to his action by Thursday, the anti-nuclear movement said it would besiege the Presidential Office Building on Saturday.
Lin, 73, arrived in the morning at the Taipei house he used to live in. It was converted into a church after his mother and twin daughters were killed there on February 28, 1980, in what is widely believed to have been a politically motivated attack. Lin was detained as a political prisoner at the time.
Replying to reporters’ questions Tuesday, he said he regretted that since the last hunger strike he held at the same location in 1994, the authorities were still insisting on doing such an extremely bad thing which would harm present residents and future generations living in Taiwan.
Lin was asked whether he could accept the government promise that if the plant’s safety could not be guaranteed, it would not operate and might even be sealed in 2016.
“So-called nuclear safety is a game which fools people,” he replied, “because if disaster strikes at a nuclear plant is not dependent on whether safety checks were conducted beforehand.”
He reminded reporters that major nuclear disasters had happened in the United States, the Soviet Union and Japan, all countries where one could have expected safety precautions and building codes to have been stricter than in Taiwan.
He said that despite his decision to fast to the end and only drink water, his friends and relatives all supported him, and nobody had uttered a word of opposition against his hunger strike.
“If it weren’t for those in power neglecting the opinions of the majority of Taiwanese in order to force the construction of the fourth nuclear plant, I would not go on hunger strike,” Lin said. “If something unfortunate happens to me, I hope my relatives and friends can understand that it was they who harmed me,” he said, referring to the authorities.
Prominent trauma expert Ko Wen-je said Lin might start suffering health problems after the second day of his hunger strike.
The fourth nuclear plant is approaching completion in Gongliao, New Taipei City, but safety and cost have been controversial issues for decades. Taiwan counts two nuclear power plants in the same region along the north coast and at the country’s far southern end, in Pingtung County.
Last week, the DPP proposed a special version of a referendum law with a lower threshold which would make it easier to pass than the existing Referendum Act. The opposition document would also vouch for a clearer question and could allow the vote to be held in a near future in order to avoid having it clash with the late November regional and local elections.
The Legislative Yuan decided Tuesday that the DPP package would be on Friday’s agenda for discussion. Kuomintang caucus leaders however stood by the existing law, saying that because nuclear energy was an important national issue, the current threshold requiring at least half of eligible voters to participate and at least half of those to approve a referendum was not too high. Some KMT lawmakers reportedly favored a change to allow a referendum to pass with 40 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.
Premier Jiang last week described the absence of a threshold in the DPP proposal as “child’s play,” claiming it would allow a proposal to pass if only three voters showed up and two of those voted in favor.
On Tuesday, he denied having said there could be no changes at all to the present Referendum Act, though he said it should not be amended just for one type of policy. Over a year ago, Jiang launched the plan to have a referendum decide the fate of the fourth nuclear plant, but the idea faced strong opposition because he wanted the vote to be held under the existing act. Depending on how the question was phrased, if not enough voters turned up, it might allow the government to continue work on the plant.
DPP Chairman Su visited Lin during the morning and later told reporters that he had a bad feeling about the hunger strike. In the guestbook, he wrote “thank you, take care.”
Lin “has already given his life to the people of Taiwan for this land, but the authorities have not discovered yet how grave the situation is,” he told reporters.
When Jiang visited the church later, the two men never actually met but the premier wrote a request in the guestbook for the activist to take could care of his health. During the 10-minute visit, he reportedly relayed a message from President Ma Ying-jeou asking Lin not to harm his own body.
A church spokesman said there was no special medical team on hand, and any need for an emergency response to his condition would be decided by Lin’s own aides.
Former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen visited her predecessor in the afternoon, but she also did not actually meet him. In the guestbook, she left the words “there is a life on the road to fairness.” Online, she insisted the DPP would continue its campaign for a non-nuclear homeland. Tsai is widely expected to win a DPP chairmanship election expected in late May.
Lin led the party in 2000, when the party won a presidential election for the first time. He later left the party and was recently thought to be preparing the launch of a new political movement.