The controversial fourth nuclear power plant (NP4) project in Taiwan was proposed in May, 1980 by the Executive Yuan 's Atomic Energy Commission. Gongliao, located at the north tip of Taiwan, was chosen as the plant site. From 1982 to 1986, the KMT government set aside a budget of NT$ 11 billion, from which about 3.1 billion was expensed. On May 6, 1992, Lee Teng-hui, former Taiwan President from 1988 to 2000, in his capacity as KMT’s chairman, decided to proceed with the construction of this power plant in a KMT Central Standing Committee meeting. (Note that former DPP chairman, Lin Yi-Hsiung, a prominent and widely esteemed democracy dissident during the martial law era of Taiwan, is currently on hunger strike, aiming to permanently stop the construction of NP4. Mr. Lin’s mother and his twin daughters were stabbed to death on Feb. 28, 1980 while Lin was in custody for alleged treason by the KMT government. Lin's eldest daughter, Huan-Jun Lin, who was badly wounded in the incident, was the only survivor in this cold-blooded murder, which stunned Taiwan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Yi-hsiung).
On March 23, 1996, as Taipei mayor, Chen Shui-bian held a referendum on NP4 in Taipei. According to a statement by DPP released in April 2011, the turnout for that particular referendum was 58%, in which 53% were anti-nuclear, while 46% pro-nuclear. On May 21, 1996, several DPP legislators brought up a resolution to abolish all nuclear power plant construction projects and the resolution was passed on May 24. Lien Chan, who was Vice President and Premier at the time, rejected this resolution and mobilized KMT legislators to repeal the resolution on Oct. 10, 1996.
On May 20, 2000, Chen Shui-bian was sworn in as the new president, achieving the first ever transfer of power from KMT to DPP in Taiwan by winning a three-way race. Premier Tang, a KMT member but appointed by Chen as a compromise for recognizing the super majority of KMT in congress, was in support of continuing the construction of NP4. However, Tang’s advocate of nuclear power was at odds with Chen’s anti-nuclear position. As a result, Tang resigned from his post as the Premier, citing health reasons.
After Tang’s resignation, Vice Premier Chang Chun-Hsiung, a DPP veteran, was appointed as the new Premier in October 2000. Chen’s administration was severely weakened after Tang’s resignation because DPP was greatly outnumbered in the parliament. Despite NP$ was already 30% in completion, Chen was determined to scrape it. Premier Chang, on October 27, proclaimed a policy - "Nuclear-free homeland as the only option," and announced a decision to stop the construction of NP4 immediately, effectively completing President Chen’s anti-nuclear revolution. The decision to scrap NP4 was announced on the day after President Chen held a talk with KMT Chairman Lien Chan at the president office. Lien just forced Lee out of KMT and took over as the KMT chair despite he was a failed presidential candidate in his 2000 bid, receiving the lowest votes in that three-way race. The scrap decision also meant that the government would have to pay a penalty of NT$120 billion (US$3 billion) to the main contractor (a US consortium) of NP4 for breaching the contract. Chen reasoned that the future saving in construction cost and the elimination of nuclear risk far outweighed this $3 billion in damages (looking back, 14 years later, Chen was perfectly right). Lien, felt a slap in the face, teamed with two other opposing parties, the People First Party and New Party, to impeach Chen using their super majority in the Legislator Yuan. Premier Chang was also reprimanded by the Control Yuan, which was also controlled by KMT. This political crisis had led to a 2.5% stock market decline, requiring the government to intervene to prevent further fall. This was only five months into Chen’s presidency.
Facing this political crisis, President Chen Shui-bian convened a meeting with the heads of five Branches (Legislative Yuan, Control Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Executive Yuan, and Examination Yuan), hoping to keep the crisis from further deterioration, but the head of Legislative Yuan, Wang Jin-Pyng, a KMT veteran, boycotted the meeting. On January 15, 2001, the supreme court of Taiwan issued a decision, No. 520, making the Executive Yuan’s announcement to scrap NP4 unconstitutional. This No. 520 decision requires the Executive Yuan to seek approval from the Legislative Yuan before scrapping any major public construction projects. Another resolution, brought upon by KMT and others, was passed by a 135 to 70 margin in the Legislative Yuan to reaffirm Supreme Court’s decision. Despite Chen’s plead to the public that scrapping the nuclear power plant was a right decision for the sake of the environment protection and a moral obligation to future generations, he never received the support he needed from the public or the anti-nuclear activists. At the end, Chen compromised and reversed his decision. The construction of NP4 was continued to this day, nearly three hundred billion dollars later. In other words, the anti-nuclear revolution initiated by Chen failed due to the widespread apathy among citizens in Taiwan.
However, President Chen did not give up his anti-nuclear revolution entirely. In February 2001, the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan reached an agreement to define a Nuclear-Free Homeland as an eventual goal, which was then written into a new environmental protection law, passed in 2001. In September, 2001, an ad hoc committee, Nuclear-Free Homeland Promotion Committee, was formed under the Executive Yuan. However, it was not until September 21, 2002, anti-nuclear activists, led by Lin Yi-Hsiung, started their campaign by calling for a referendum law and a referendum to scrap NP4. Lin led a group of activists to march around Taiwan on foot to spread the anti-nuclear message. They started their multi-month long journey at the famed Long-Shan Temple in Monga, Taipei.
On March 17, 2003, Lin Yi-hsiung , along with members of his NP4 Referendum Association, staged a sit-in vigil at the Executive Yuan, demanding President Chen to hold a referendum before the 2004 Presidential election as well several initiatives and new laws to educate the general public about the nuclear safety. The goal was to build up consensus among citizens to promote the anti-nuclear power message.
Before the referendum law was passed on December 31, 2003, several referendum proposals were initiated by seeking endorsing signatures. However, since the referendum law was passed, there has been no motion to hold a referendum on NP4, although there were six referendums in three separate occasions between 2004 to 2008. All six failed because not enough citizens participated in voting even though the majority of those who voted casted positive votes. The referendum law requires at least 50% of all qualified voters in Taiwan to participate or the result is invalided. KMT did their best to boycott these referendums by asking their supporters not to participate in addition to setting up all kinds of voting obstacles to discourage participation. From 2008 to 2013, no new referendum case was brought to vote.
On March 9 and 10, 2013, Green Citizens Action Alliance, along with 150 non-governmental organizations co-sponsored a rally with 220,000 people to demand “No NP4 and Zero Nuclear Power”. At this time, President Chen had been imprisoned for nearly five years and few people remembered his anti-nuclear revolution.
How ironic this is. During Chen’s presidency, the widespread apathy of general public in Taiwan resulted in a failed anti-nuclear revolution. For the past six years, President Chen has been thoroughly demonized and his health was destroyed by KMT conspired with powers from China and the US. Only then, citizens of Taiwan finally come to realize the evilness of the Ma administration. Many of them now fight hard, staging rallies and sit-ins on streets, ramming a truck into the President office, occupying the Legislator Yuan and Executive Yuan, the sunflower movement, throwing shoes at Ma, hunger strikes, etc. However, NP4 could have been scrapped with much less societal cost and civil struggles if citizens in Taiwan had rallied around President Chen in 2000. It is simply heartsick when it comes to the apathy and collective low wisdom of Taiwan citizens.
The original article was published in Taiwan People News on April 25, 2014
(Note: When this translation was completed, the hunger strike by Lin Yi-Hsiung has entered its fifth day. Lin was frail after five days without eating. DPP Chair Su and Ma held an open meeting, broadcasted live, during which Ma refused to scrap NP4 and showed zero concern over Lin’s life. Of course Ma has no regards toward any life other than his, judging the way he tortures President Chen. One can only conclude that there isn’t much human left inside Ma. And yet, Taiwanese elected him twice and citizens of Taipei chose him over President Chen as the mayor. The conclusion is the same: the apathy and low collective wisdom lead to horror, horror and more horror.)