Bowing to widespread antinuclear sentiment, the Taiwan government said Sunday it will freeze construction of a fourth nuclear plant pending endorsement of the project by voters in a national referendum.
The move came as tens of thousands of people marched in the streets of Taipei on Sunday in a bid to stop the project, the second time this year large-scale public protests threaten to force the government to settle hot-button issues.
The antinuclear activists began the march from the Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office to Zhongxiao West Road in front of the Taipei Train Station, where they staged a sit-in.
Organizers said more than 50,000 people took part in the march. The police put the turnout at 28,500.
Nuclear energy has begun to take center stage in Taiwan politics after weeks in which a trade pact with China dominated news coverage.
Over 110,000 people took to the streets of Taipei late last month to protest against a trade pact with China, forcing President Ma Ying-jeou to come to terms on some of the organizers’ demands.
The organizers, made up mostly of university students, staged weeks of protests in which they occupied the legislative chamber and also stormed the Cabinet compound.
The nuclear issue flared up this month after former leader of the Democratic Progressive Party Lin Yi-xiong began an indefinite hunger strike on April 22 to pressure the Ma administration to halt construction of the fourth nuclear power station.
The DPP also joined the chorus of calls for an immediate halt to construction of the new facility.
Fearing the 73-year-old Lin might not survive, the DPP has proposed a special law authorizing a referendum to be held on the fate of the fourth nuclear power plant by the end of this year, hoping it will proceed to the full-house legislative session for a second reading.
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