Taipei, March 16 2012 (Central News Agency, Taiwan)
Over 20 university students clashed with the police Friday while protesting against the United States for pressuring Taiwan to import beef containing ractopamine residues.
At least one student was taken to the nearest police station after the group tried to set fire to a placard bearing a picture of the Statue of Liberty in front of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).
"We eat ractopamine and the U.S. makes money," shouted the students, who were mostly from National Taiwan University's Journalism Club.
Before ractopamine is scientifically proven safe, the U.S. should respect Taiwan's zero-tolerance policy, said John Cheng, a student representative, in a telephone interview with CNA following the protest.
"Taiwan needs to safeguard its sovereignty over foodstuffs," Cheng added, calling attention to the potentially negative impact of U.S. beef imports on the domestic market.
Ractopamine, a muscle-growth drug, is allowed as a feed additive in 20-plus countries including the U.S., but is currently banned in Taiwan, China and the European Union.
Other civic groups and pig farmers have also staged recent protests, appealing to President Ma Ying-jeou's administration to retain the ban on ractopmaine.
The AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, has however repeatedly said that it wished Taiwan would consider lifting the restriction based on scientific studies, many of which have stated its safety.
"We hope Taiwan will take a science-based approach to setting a maximum residue level for ractopamine," said AIT spokesman Christopher Kavanagh a day earlier.
Washington has long been pressing Taipei to relax the ban on imported meat containing ractopamine residues that it imposed in 2006.
The pressure, however, has intensified since Ma won a re-election bid in January's presidential election.
The U.S. beef dispute is seen as central to the re-opening of talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between Taiwan and the U.S.
Washington decided against resuming TIFA talks in early 2011 after Taiwan refused to allow the entry of shipments