Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport is checking all carry-on luggage belonging to tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China for pork products, in a bid to prevent the spread of African swine fever.

New Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang visited the airport on Monday – his first day in office – as he called for more stringent rules to prevent the spread of the disease. Monday and Tuesday saw long queues of tourists at the airport as a result.

Tourists queuing for checks at the Taoyuan International Airport. Photo: Apple Daily.

The Taiwanese government has repeatedly criticised Beijing as failing to halt the epidemic or keep Taiwan notified of the issue. The government has imposed hefty fines of NT$200,000 (HK$51,890) for tourists who have failed to declare food products containing pork as they enter Taiwan.

The infection can be transmitted through direct contact with affected animals and may survive for months or years in processed or frozen food.

African swine flu does not harm humans, but is highly contagious among pigs and has a very high mortality rate. There is currently no vaccine or cure, with China having had to kill almost a million pigs.

New x-ray machines

Taiwanese Minister of Interior Hsu Kuo-yung inspected the manual checking process at Taoyuan airport on Wednesday morning.

Tourists queuing for checks at the Taoyuan International Airport. Photo: Apple Daily.

He expressed appreciation for its efficiency, saying that the process of having hand luggage checked had only taken 12 minutes for all tourists on a flight from mainland China to Taiwan on Wednesday morning. For the flight after that, the time period was whittled down to seven minutes.

“A tourist told me that they were willing to cooperate so as to ensure Taiwan’s food safety,” he said. “The measure is successful. We have found many pork food products.”

He said authorities will speed up the purchase of X-ray machines.

Taiwanese Minister of Interior Hsu Kuo-yung speaking to immigration officers. Photo: Apple Daily.

There are around 112 flights from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China to Taiwan each day, according to the Aviation Police Bureau.

According to the Taiwanese government, there were at least 106 cases of African swine fever that happened in 24 provinces and regions.

Earlier this month, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “China can’t even manage its own pigs.”

“African swine fever seems out of control,” the ministry said in a tweet.


Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.