Taiwan aborigines want to reclaim land in government hands

Taipei, Jan. 26 (CNA) A Taiwan aboriginal tribe will stage a protest Friday in an effort to reclaim their traditional territory which they said had been illegally seized by the government and the former Japanese colonial authorities for over 100 years.

Aborigine rights advocates and people of the Amis, one of Taiwan’s 14 indigenous tribes, are scheduled to gather in front of the Presidential Office Friday to demand an official apology and respect for the aborigines’ basic rights, which include land rights, Namoh Nofu Pacidal, one of the organizers of the overnight protest, told a press conference.

As the island’s first residents, Taiwan aborigines effectively owned the island’s mountainous areas until the Japanese colonial period from 1895-1945 and the takeover by the Kuomintang authorities after World War II, Nofu said.

Except for the eight years between 2000 and 2008, Taiwan has been ruled by a Kuomintang government since 1945.

Due to the influx of the Han people, modernization and changes in Taiwan’s society, the indigenous peoples had no choice but to leave their lands and try to earn a living in the cities, ultimately became “tribes in exile, ” said Tibusungue Vayayana, a professor at National Taiwan Normal University.

There were 512,701 aborigines in Taiwan as of December 2010, according to the statistics of the Ministry of the Interior. The number accounts for approximately 2.2 percent of Taiwan’s population of 23 million.

Thirty-six point six percent of them are Amis, the largest of the 14 tribes recognized by the Taiwan government.

Vayayana claimed the Taiwan government was even worse than the Japanese, who tried to “civilize” the aborigines but designated the mountains as a “reservation, ” adding that the Taiwan authorities incorporated tribal lands into state property.

The advocates also condemned the government’s attempts to develop eastern Taiwan, where the majority of aborigine population reside nowadays, granting build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts without taking into account the land rights and living conditions of the aborigines.

That was why the group also demanded an immediate moratorium on development projects in the mountainous area and eastern Taiwan.

The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) , Taiwan’s government agency overseeing aboriginal affairs, has not had dialogues with the advocates and has ignored the group’s requests, said Oto Micyang, executive secretary of the Indigenous Peoples Action Coalition of Taiwan (IPACT).

The draft of the Indigenous Autonomy Act failed to pass the legislature this year and the contents of the draft were not consistent with the existing Indigenous Peoples Basic Law, either, Micyang added.

“It’s unfortunate that the respect for indigenous rights has gone backwards during this administration. And we want to change that, ” he said.

Well-known local singer/actress Francesca Kao, who is also known by her aboriginal name of Paicu Yatauyungana, was among the advocates despite her Tsou tribe origin.

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