Hong Kong to reach decision by November on lifting Japanese food import ban over Fukushima disaster
News comes after city’s leader in March declined request to remove restrictions, citing public safety
Hong Kong is considering lifting a ban on Japanese food imports after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with a decision to be reached by November when the city’s top official visits the country, the Post has learned.
In March, Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono met Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Hong Kong to request the removal of restrictions on food imports imposed after the 2011 accident. But Lam expressed reservations at the time, citing public safety.
The ban covers fresh produce and milk from Fukushima and four neighbouring prefectures, while fresh produce from the rest of the country is subjected to radiation tests by Hong Kong authorities.
An earthquake seven years ago led to a tsunami damaging nuclear reactors at a plant in Fukushima, sparking fears of radiation leaks.
On Saturday, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Lam told visiting members of the Japan-Hong Kong Parliamentarian League earlier this month she was exploring measures to scrap food import restrictions.
It also stated that Lam hoped to make the decision by November 1, when she is expected to head to Tokyo for a Hong Kong-related forum and meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A local government source confirmed to the Post that it was looking into the possibilities of lifting the ban, but he added these might not cover Fukushima imports.
He also said Lam’s meeting with Abe was not finalised.
The Kyodo report said Lam had explained to visiting league members the difficulties in lifting the ban on Fukushima’s food products, saying the public might not understand the decision because the prefecture was “too well known”.
The report also quoted a Japanese government source as saying: “We are negotiating with Hong Kong and trying our best to get the ban lifted.”
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau said on Saturday the authority had tested more than 490,000 samples of food imported from Japan since the restrictions were in place and none of the samples had radiation levels exceeding recommended limits.
He said the government had been maintaining communication with Japanese authorities and reviewing control measures on food imported from the country in light of current conditions.