Taiwan politicians scuffle over nuclear bill

Brawl rocks parliament over referendum on fourth nuclear power station on earthquake-prone island.

Taiwan lawmakers brawl over nuclear plant bill
Friday's scuffle occurred on a day a referendum was to be held on finishing a nuclear plant [Reuters]

Taiwan’s politicians have punched each other and wrestled in a parliamentary brawl over a controversial bill on a nuclear power plant.

Dozens of politicians from opposing camps clashed on Friday, as they tried to seize the chamber’s podium, splashing water from cups and plastic bottles at each other.

Some shouted: “Support for Nuke 4 harms children”, in reference to the name of the country’s new, nearly complete nuclear power station, near Taipei.

Two men from opposing parties were locked in a brawl and fell on to the floor while scuffling before they were pulled apart by others in footage broadcast live on television.

The parliament was scheduled to vote on Friday on whether to hold a referendum on whether to finish building the fourth nuclear plant of the densely populated island of 23 million people.

Nuclear power has long been a contentious issue in earthquake-troubled Taiwan and became more so following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.

Safety concerns

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has opposed the nuclear plant because of safety concerns, but the ruling Kuomintang party said that scrapping the station would lead to insufficient power supply and hurt the economy.

The referendum would ask whether building of the plant should be halted and that it not be operational [Reuters]

DPP politicians occupied the legislative podium in an attempt to disrupt the referendum vote, which was expected to pass easily because of a large Nationalist majority in the 113-seat legislature.

Physical confrontations broke out early during Friday’s session.

More than a dozen activists in bright yellow shirts chanted and waved signs on a nearby balcony during the brawl, and several of them also splashed water on to politicians below.

Fighting broke also broke out last month as politicians scuffled and threw coffee during a debate on whether to revise a controversial capital gains tax on share trading.

Concerns about the island’s nuclear facilities have been mounting since 2011, when the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan was hit by a tsunami sending its cooling systems into meltdown.

Anti-nuclear groups staged several mass street protests in the past few months to call on the government to immediately slam the brakes on the station and move to completely stop using nuclear energy.

The fourth nuclear plant is about 90 percent completed and due to come online in 2015, according to its operator the state-owned Taiwan Power Company (Taipower).

Construction began in 1997 but was halted while the DPP was in power from 2000 until 2008.

Like Japan, Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes. In September 1999 a 7.6-magnitude quake killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s recent history.

Source: News Agencies