12/17/2021, 13.04
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Beijing rides Taipei's referendum day to weaken President Tsai

The island warns Communist China not to interfere. Polls open tomorrow. The government has sided with the no vote on all four questions, but the polls do not favour it. The most important, especially for relations with the US, is the one on the reinstatement of the ban on ractopamine meat imports. The others concern energy policy and the conduct of future referendums.



Taipei (AsiaNews) - Tomorrow's four referendums in Taiwan are an internal matter and China is in no position to "interfere", according the Taiwanese Council for Affairs with the Chinese mainland. The tough statement was issued yesterday after Beijing attacked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Tsai Ing-wen, which is in favour of a no vote in all four referendums.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office accused Tsai of using alarmist tones and promoting anti-Beijing sentiments during a rally in Tainan on 12 December. In the eyes of the Chinese leadership, Tsai is a dangerous secessionist. China considers Taiwan a 'rebel province' and has never ruled out recapturing it by force. The island has been de facto independent from Beijing since 1949; at that time Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists found refuge there after losing the civil war on the mainland to the communists, making it the heir to the Republic of China founded in 1912.

Tsai believes that the possible approval of the question on the import ban on ractopamine pork will have an impact on the island's trade relations. Ractopamine is a steroid used on farms in countries such as the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea, but banned by the European Union, for example.

The Taiwanese leader's reference is mainly to the negotiations between the island and Washington to conclude a free trade agreement. Without such an agreement, Taipei fears that it will not be able to free itself from its economic dependence on Beijing. Despite the Tsai administration's efforts in this direction, Communist China remains the primary destination of Taiwanese exports: 43% of the total, with an increase of almost 15% in 2020.

This year, the Taiwanese government lifted a previous ban on imports of pork containing ractopamine. The referendum on the reinstatement of the ban was promoted by the Kuomintang, the pro-Beijing nationalist party, the main opposition force to the DPP. In the calculations of Chiang Kai-shek's heirs, a referendum victory would be the springboard to return to power after the Tsai interlude.

A second referendum asks whether citizens want the completion of a nuclear power plant (the fourth in the country) in the Gongliao district, which has been kept in mothballs since 2014. The third concerns the possibility of holding referendums in conjunction with general elections, and the last is the decision to move a regasifier, which is planned to be built near a coral seaweed reef off the Datan coast.

A recent poll commissioned by the independence-leaning New Power Party shows that the turnout could be as high as 75 per cent. Voters would be inclined to reject the nuclear question and support the other three.

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