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Chronology for Aboriginal Taiwanese in Taiwan

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Aboriginal Taiwanese in Taiwan, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f38e4c.html [accessed 3 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
May 1990 An exhibition of some 130 objects d'art of the Paiwan ethnic group of Taiwan opened to the Belgian public at the museum of Tervueren, a suburb of Brussels, with the expectation of more cultural exchanges between Taiwan and Belgium to follow. Prof. Hsu Ying-Chou, an expert on Taiwan's Aboriginal arts and the owner of the collection said it was the second of a series of displays in major European cities, after a resounding success in Paris. The Director of the museum told some 100 guests that the art exhibition can certainly promote mutual understanding between peoples, suggesting that cultural exchanges between the two countries be enhanced (Central News Agency, 5/11/90). Seventeen groups from around the world will feature their respective cultures during a folk dance festival to be held in Taipei. Two groups from Taiwan -- the Lanyang dancers, a world-traveled troupe of school children and the Huakang folk dance ensemble from the Chinese Culture University will be involved.
Jun 1991 About 200 members of Taiwan's Aboriginal tribes, some wearing colorful traditional dress, demonstrated outside Parliament to demand government aid and greater political power. "Our language is vanishing, our culture is fading away and our natural resources are being systematically plundered", the leaders of Aboriginal civic groups asserted in a letter presented to the cabinet office. They called on the government to improve employment and educational opportunities in Aboriginal villages and to create a committee overseeing Aboriginal affairs in which the tribes would have representation. There are about 335,000 aborigines among Taiwan's 20 million people. Scholars say the tribes, which may be related to Pacific Islanders, arrived in Taiwan long before the first big influx of Chinese settlers some 400 years ago. Many aborigines say they suffer racial discrimination and have benefited little from Taiwan's rapid economic growth during the past four decades. One major tribal grievance is the government's storage of nuclear waste on Orchid Island, just off southeastern Taiwan; it is the home of one of the tribes (Reuters, 6/6/91).
Aug 1991 Police in Taiwan have arrested a well-known Aboriginal sculptor on charges of growing marijuana. They also seized about 500 gm of dried marijuana leaves. Lin Yi-Chien, 40, was handed to the prosecutor's office on charges of planting marijuana at his home in Taiwan's eastern county Taitung. Lin stated that the plants had been given to him by a foreign English teacher who left Taiwan last year (Reuters, 8/10/91).
May 1992 About 30 Aboriginal students clashed with police during a demonstration in Taipei on the second anniversary of President Lee Teng-Hui's inauguration. They were demonstrating outside the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party headquarters, where Lee was chairing a meeting. The slogan-chanting students were forcibly removed by the police. The aborigines have called on Lee to make it compulsory to refer to them by what they consider the correct term, "original inhabitants." They said "aborigine" was discriminatory and used by the government to refer to their backwardness and poverty. The KMT had earlier proposed that the aborigines be called "early inhabitants", but they insisted that they be called "original inhabitants". The tribals maintain that they are the original residents of Taiwan and have accused the KMT of seizing their rich lands and driving them to mountain areas. They plan a march on the National Assembly to demand changes in the Constitution that would protect their rights and benefits (Agence France Press, 5/20/92).
Jun 1992 Taiwan's native tribes are being tapped as a rich tourism resource, but more enlightened planning is needed to ensure that tourism will not harm their development. Although the danger of tourism to native culture is undeniable, it is also true that tourism can do much to help preserve it. In fact, much of the active preservation work that has taken place in recent years has been, either directly or indirectly, for the purpose of promoting tourism. However, "VILLAGES" that have been purposely built to attract tourists may actually serve to divert attention from the attractions of genuine settlements. There is currently an on-going project of the East Coast National Scenic Area Administration of Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, which is planning and developing the entire coastline between Hualien in the central part of the coast and Taitung in the south. This is the homeland of Taiwan's largest indigenous group, the Ami tribe, which totals about 123,000 members. Fewer than 40,000, however, continue to live in the east coast area. Mr. C. T. Su, Director of the East Coast National Scenic Area Administration, says, "We hope to preserve the traditional culture of the Amis. First, We want them to continue holding their harvest festivals in July and August, and we'll subsidize those festivals. Second, we're organizing workshops to teach traditional handicrafts cloth and bamboo weaving, pottery, and clothes-making. Third, we're commissioning Academia Sinica to study and plan a means of cultural expression that will allow visitors to see living Ami culture". An Ami Cultural Consulting Committee has been organized to meet every three months to discuss ways of involving tribespeople. Willi Boehi, a long-time resident of Taiwan who works as a correspondent for a Swiss newspaper, suggests that tribespeople should be provided with funding and be allowed to develop tourist activities themselves, since they know how best to meld such activities into their village life (The Strait Times, 6/16/92).
Jul 1992 The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), which takes pride in fighting for the cause of minority groups, is distancing itself and its ideology from ethnic strife brought on by a wave of nationalist sentiments. Formed in February 1991 to give unrepresented peoples worldwide a voice, the organization will be recognized for its efforts when it is presented with the 1992 "International Social Inventions Award" in a London ceremony. At the moment, UNPO has 21 members including Taiwan.
Oct 1992 Taiwan is embarking upon a 6-year national development plan involving outlays totaling $303 billion. The goal is to invest in peoples' quality of life. Among other social programs, a health insurance program accessible to all will be in place by 1994. In addition, social programs for seniors and handicapped citizens as well as Taiwan's Aboriginal population will be expanded.
Mar 1993 China may soon agree to accept from Taiwan hundreds of tons of radioactive waste in exchange for financial backing for a high-tech dump site to be shared by both governments. The facility, to be located either in northwest China or on an island in the South China Sea, would be large enough to accommodate Taipei's 150,000 drums of accumulated radioactive material plus the low-level waste produced by both nations for the next three decades. "We had numerous contacts with China's atomic energy experts", stated a high-ranking Taiwanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity (UPI, 08/03/93). He also indicated that "In many ways Beijing has been very encouraging". The dump site, with an estimated price tag of $1 billion, could be agreed upon in principle within a year and be in use by 1997. Taiwan, which put its first nuclear power plant on line in the early 1980s, currently operates six reactors, accounting for about 40% of the island's total electricity output. Most of the waste produced by the plants is temporarily stored on Orchid Island, 170 miles southeast of Taipei, the ancestral home of Taiwan's Aboriginal minority. But under pressure from islanders, the government has agreed to halt dumping by 2002.
Apr 1993 The University of California at Berkeley was presented $300,000 by a Taipei museum to study and research Aboriginal culture in Taiwan. Chairman Lin of the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines says he hopes research and study of Taiwan's Aboriginal culture will be deepened and expanded through international cooperation programs. The museum is also planning to cooperate with the University of Tokyo and Oxford University for the same purpose (Central News Agency, 04/13/93).
Dec 1993 Around 500 Aboriginals demonstrated in Taipei to demand greater autonomy and the return of land that has been appropriated for national parks. The appeal was presented to the Legislative Yuan by two tribal leaders (Central News Agency, 12/10/93).
Jul 1994 About 100 members of the Rukai tribe, one of nine Aboriginal groups in Taiwan, danced silently in front of a local government building in Taipei. The Rukai were protesting against the government's plan to build a reservoir on the birthplace of their culture. The Rukai would then be moved to a tourist-oriented village. The government contends that the reservoir will ease the water shortages of the Aboriginals; however, the tribe says that it wants to be left alone and does not want the "better" life promised by the government (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 07/28/94).
Aug 1994 Heavy rains that followed typhoon "Doug" have stranded more than ten thousand people in Taiwan. The government is airlifting food supplies to various areas, including the mountain villages of the Aboriginals (Reuter Textline Lloyd's List, 08/13/94).
Oct 1994 Waving banners and shouting slogans, around 1000 members of the Atayal tribe demonstrated in east Taiwan. The Atayal are demanding the return of 92,000 hectares of land that the government has defined as a national park. In the interim, the tribe wants to be able to hunt, fell trees, and mine minerals -- their traditional occupations -- in parts of the protected park area (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 10/17/94).
Nov 1994 The ROC's newly revised Wildlife Conservation Law has greatly increased penalties against Aboriginal trappers with sentences ranging from six month to five year jail terms and stiff fines. The new law is reported to be one part of a complete legal framework to be established to protect Taiwan's dwindling wildlife (Reuter Textline Business Taiwan, 11/09/94).
Jan 1995 Taiwan's National Assembly conceded to native claims last year by changing the official name for Aboriginals from shanpao (mountain compatriots) to yuanchumin (indigenous inhabitants). However, the national assembly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed indigenous self-rule and would have granted full land rights to Aboriginal groups. The indigenous peoples are also seeking greater political and economic autonomy including control over education and the formation of a cabinet-level agency responsible for Aboriginal affairs (Financial Times, 01/04/95).
Mar 1995 The US State Department's 1994 Report on Human Rights Practices in Taiwan indicates that while the indigenous people do not face official discrimination, they are unable to exert an impact on significant decisions that affect their lands, culture, traditions, and the distribution of their natural resources. Further, the average income of Aboriginals is less than half the national average. Social problems in the indigenous community include widespread alcoholism and the sale of Aboriginal girls into prostitution (03/95).
Jul 1995 Environmentalists in Taiwan will attempt to establish their own "Green Party" that would focus on issues such as protecting Aboriginal rights and halting the construction of nuclear power plants (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 07/10/95).
Jul 13, 1995 Around 50 Aboriginals held a demonstration near the Foreign Ministry in Taipei to protest against the jail sentence received by Liu Wen-hsiung, an Aboriginal member of parliament. Wen-hsiung has reportedly helped Aboriginals hold illegal demonstrations in order to fight for their rights (Agence France Presse, 07/13/95).
Mar 1996 The US State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995 does not indicate that there has been any significant change in the situation of the Aboriginal population in Taiwan since 1994. While civil and political rights of Aborigines are fully protected under law, the authorities have instituted social programs to help them assimilate into the dominant Chinese society, and the Ministry of Education has come to include some Aboriginal-language classes in primary school, the overall situation of the Aboriginal population remains bleak. Aborigines still have little impact on major decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions and allocation of their natural resources. According to MOI statistics, only 52 percent receive elementary education, while alcohol addiction rates exceeds 40 percent among members of three of the nine major tribes.(US Department of State)
Feb 1997 The US Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996 indicates that Aboriginal representatives participate in most levels of the political system, partially through 6 reserved seats in the National Assembly and the Legislative Yuan, and 2 seats in the Provincial Assembly. An Aborigine serves as Chief of the Ministry of Interior's Aborigine Affairs Section.(US Department of State Report)
Jul 14, 1997 The Taiwan Aboriginal Tribes Association (TATS) appeared for the first time at a political demonstration to support a referendum call on independence for Taiwan, and added their demands for an independent government.(China News)
Dec 3, 1998 Aboriginal labor activists and their supporters lashed out at the large-scale employment of foreigners in Taiwan, saying that they were keeping Aboriginal workers out of work. They also said that collaboration between legislators and Schive Chi of the Council of Economic Planning and Development has led to a situation that is both exploitative of foreign laborers and detrimental to the economy as a whole. The group also complained that Aboriginal politicians are a "bunch of lazy legislators" who have done nothing to protect their constituents. An amendment to the Aboriginal Labor Law from 1997 has extended the period of time foreign laborers are allowed to work in Taiwan and has helped deprive Aboriginals of jobs.(China News)
Dec 4, 1998 Voters on Taiwan, the Republic of China, go to the polls Saturday 5th December to elect members of the Legislative Yuan.(BBC)
Mar 21, 1999 An exhibition of the art of Inuit, the indigenous people in northern Canada, and Taiwan aborigines opens in the National Museum of History in Canada as part of the Taiwan-Canadian Aboriginal Cultural Festival. The festival is the first cooperative program embarked on following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in late 1998 to further strengthen cooperation in Aboriginal affairs and exchanges of indigenous cultures. The memorandum of understanding was signed jointly by David Mulroney, director of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, and Hua Chia-chih, chairman of the Republic of China's Cabinet-level Council of Aboriginal Affairs, on Nov. 20 1998. It took effect on Dec. 20 and it would remain valid for 10 years. Under the memorandum of understanding, the two sides will alternately hold traditional festivals, activities promoting handicraft and marketing and contests in traditional skills. Taiwan and Canada will alternate hosting workshops on issues involving the educational, cultural, economic and social development for Canadian and Taiwanese Aboriginal populations. The workshops will also focus on protection of the environment. (Central News Agency)
Jul 11, 1999 In an interview for the Voice of Germany, Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui made a controversial declaration about the sovereign status of Taiwan saying that Taiwan has ceased to exist as part of China and there are two separate "countries" on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The president's comment represented a major departure from the official position of the ruling KMT, according to which Taiwan and China are "two equal political entities within the one-China framework". President Lee explained his position noting that in the 1991 constitutional revisions he had already restricted the jurisdiction of the Taiwanese constitution to the present islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. "We derive our legitimacy to rule from the people in Taiwan only, and there is nothing to do with people in China. The relation between China and Taiwan is one between countries, instead of one between a legitimate government and an illicit one, or a central government against a local one," the president said. He added. "since 1991 we have already defined clearly bilateral relations across the strait as relations between country and country, or at least a special relation between country and country.(The Straits Times (Singapore), 7/11/1999)
Aug 2, 1999 On the occasion of the announcement of Taiwan as a separate state President Lee Teng-hui emphasized the significance of the Aboriginal culture for the building of Taiwanese history as separate and different from the Chinese one. Taiwan's history began not 5,000 years ago on the mainland but with the Australasian tribes that already inhabited Taiwan when Chinese migrants began arriving 400 years ago, said the president. A number of recent events indicate that Taiwanese separatist ambitions and Taiwanese official policy's emphasis on the differences distinguishing Taiwanese from Chinese culture favor the nine Aboriginal tribes and promise to improve their status. Among these events are, the Taiwan Museum featuring of an exhibit called "tayal facial tattoos", a government-sponsored Aboriginal troop world tour, and a hot-selling of CD documenting the songs of each Aboriginal tribe.(Newsweek)

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