Dead hog found in Kinmen as Taiwan steps up swine fever defense

Taiwanese authorities are considering beefing up customs checks to prevent the spread of African swine fever into the country as neighboring China deals with an outbreak of the virus.

Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture is set to propose expanding the use of X-ray machines and sniffing dogs at customs in a Jan. 4 meeting with the Central Emergency Operation Center, according to Central News Agency.

In Kinmen, officials are urging residents to keep calm after a dead hog was found on a beach on the island’s northeastern coast at 3 p.m. Monday by Coast Guard personnel. Kinmen is just 2.8 kilometers from China’s Fujian province at its shortest distance.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) said last Friday that combating African swine fever was among the government’s top priorities in 2019, saying the threat could be more serious than the 1997 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

137 people were fined between Dec. 14 and Dec. 30 for bringing meat from areas infected with African swine fever into Taiwan. Customs officials have discovered seven positive samples of the virus, which does not sicken humans, although some researchers believe future mutations may be able to do so.

The virus has affected 23 of China’s 31 provinces and administrative regions and has a 100 percent fatality rate among pigs, posing a severe threat to Taiwan’s NT$80 billion (US$2.58 billion) pig farming industry.

Other countries are stepping up their defenses against African swine fever. Some, including the Philippines, have not banned pork imports from affected countries.


Credit: Kinmen Customs

A dead hog pictured on a Kinmen beach on Dec. 31, 2018.

Xi Jinping to give major Taiwan speech on Wednesday

Chinese President Xi Jinping will give a major speech on Wednesday, Jan. 2 at 10 a.m. on Taiwan, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

The president will attend a gathering at China’s Great Hall of the People to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” a key policy statement delivered on Jan. 1, 1979.

On that day, China declared it would cease its routine bombing of Kinmen and offered to open communications between the two sides. The offer was rejected by then-President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), who unveiled his “three noes” policy of no contact, no compromise and no negotiation with China.

Jan. 1, 1979 also marked the day the United States switched its recognition from the Republic of China (ROC) to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), after which then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter broke off relations with the ROC.

The Taiwan Relations Act, enacted on Apr. 10, 1979, has since defined the robust yet non-diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.

In his New Year’s Eve speech on Dec. 31, 2018, carried by all major Chinese state media, Xi pledged that the “pace of reforms will not stagnate” in China. He made no direct mention of the ongoing trade war with the U.S.


Credit: Reuters / Yuri Gripas

40 years ago today, the US switched its diplomatic recognition from the ROC to the PRC.

Minimum wage hikes take effect today

The minimum monthly wage will rise nationwide this year from NT$22,000 to NT$23,100 (US$716 to US$752), while the minimum hourly wage will increase from NT$140 to NT$150.

Nearly two dozen regulations and measures will also take effect today, including higher insurance premiums, employer-provided health examinations for night shift workers, and loosened requirements for alternative military service applications, according to the Taipei Times.

Scooter subsidies will also be offered to those who trade in two-stroke motorcycles for electric scooters, and convenience stories will begin distributing lottery prize money if the amount is less than NT$1,000.

Taiwan’s minimum wage and pension reform resulted in protests by groups seeing the measures as inadequate. Public anger at these perceived failures persisted leading up to Taiwan’s Nov. 24, 2018 regional elections, in which the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered heavy losses at the expense of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).


Credit: Reuters / TPG

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), pictured prior to her presidency in 2009.

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Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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