Yang Ru-men, known as the“rice bomber,”has launched a hunger strike to coincide with a World Trade Organization ministerial meeting currently being held in Hong Kong, demanding that Taiwan government officials safeguard the interests of local farmers at the meeting, Yang's friends and supporters said yesterday.
Having learned last month the schedule of the WTO ministerial meeting, Yang made plans to begin the hunger strike inside a detention center in Taipei yesterday and to continue the non-violent protest for six days and nights until the WTO meeting ends on Sunday.
“Yang decided to stage a hunger strike to show his opposition”to the dumping of foreign rice since Taiwan's accession to WTO, said social activist and Yang Tsu-chun, who is also an assistant professor of mass communications at Chinese Culture University.
The dumping practice has created problems for local farmers who lack sufficient support from the government to upgrade their agricultural skills and techniques, or to obtain subsidies as Taiwan opens up to rice imports and cuts tariffs on agricultural produce to fulfill its obligations as a WTO member, Yang and his supporters said.
Apart from Yang Tsu-chun, the“rice bomber”has other supporters such as Chinese Literature Professor Fang Sheng-ping of National Tsinghua University, who read a written statement by Yang Ru-men at a press conference yesterday.
“The hunger strike is a demonstration of (my) determination to show (my) concern and worry over the predicament facing the local agricultural sector,”the statement read.“It will last for six days in a tug of war between (my) physical needs and mental aspirations.”
Officials of the detention center said they have alerted doctors to give Yang the“necessary nutrition”and would take the“necessary steps”to save his life after the start of the hunger strike.
In expressing his support for Yang at yesterday's press conference, another National Tsinghua University Professor Peng Ming-hui cautioned that few young people would want to go into rice farming if the domestic price remains low.
Peng and other Yang supporters also urged the government to face squarely the farmers’plight and help them to overcome the challenges by upgrading their agricultural skills. The government should protect local farmers and consumers’interests by rejecting imports of inferior farm products, they said, adding that the authorities should also curb businessmen's exploitation of farmers.