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China, Taiwan Tense Over Swine Flu

Workers disinfect passing vehicles in an area after the latest incident of African swine flu outbreak on the outskirts of Beijing, China, last November. A recent incident has Taiwan concerned about its spread.
China, Taiwan Tense Over Swine Flu
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A dead farm animal that floated across the sea from China to an island held by Taiwan has upset Taiwanese officials.

They are concerned because tests showed that the hog carried a disease that could affect the island’s pig farming industry.

The pig washed up on December 31 on Kinmen, a small island held by Taiwan. Local agricultural inspectors carried out tests and found that the hog had African swine flu. The infectious disease led to the destruction of at least 600,000 pigs last year in mainland China.

Taiwanese officials want China to provide more information about the hog so officials can prevent the swine flu from spreading to Taiwan. But officials in Beijing have not answered a letter about the incident from Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture.

Some experts consider the lack of communication as a sign that relations between the sides have worsened. Huang Kwei-bo is with National Chengchi University in Taiwan. He said, “…when relations are better, Beijing would definitely first give Taiwan a heads up and say ‘here’s how things are.’”

Communist Party officials in mainland China are demanding that Taiwan agree that the two sides are a single country before talks can take place.

Swine flu a risk to Taiwan

Taiwanese officials have watched for African swine flu since China confirmed its first case last August. The official Xinhua News Agency said 81 cases had been reported in 21 Chinese provinces by early December.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that African swine flu could severely harm the island’s pig farming industry if it spread. That industry is valued at more than $2.5 billion.

Before the hog washed up on Kinmen, officials at Taiwan’s airports had already been increasing punishments for people who brought pig meat into the country.

Another hog later washed up on another small island. That animal, however, was not infected.

Political tensions increase

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen discussed the incident in her New Year’s speech. She demanded that China provide more information.

“The other side’s government has never, according to agreements, given honest and timely reports on the outbreak to Taiwan,” she said.

In a message on Facebook, government spokesperson Kolas Yotaka questioned whether the second hog incident was a “biochemical bomb” from China.

Tsai’s party supports long-term self-rule from China. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said Taiwan must accept that Taiwan is part of China and the two must unify.

Mainland China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said last month that it does not need to provide information about animal health issues to the island. The office said that, under a 2010 agricultural inspection agreement between the two sides, Taiwan does not permit Chinese imports of pig meat.

I’m Mario Ritter Jr.

Ralph Jennings reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

hog - n. a pig

heads up –interjection used to tell someone to pay attention for possible danger or a problem