Taiwan's Indigenous to Xi: Taiwan Is Not China, Xi Does Not 'Understand Dignity'

Taiwan's Indigenous to Xi: Taiwan Is Not China, Xi Does Not 'Understand Dignity'
Credit: Reuters / Nicky Loh
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In an open letter to Xi Jinping, Taiwan's indigenous call on China to respect the self-determination of the island and its indigenous population.

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Representatives from Taiwan’s indigenous communities issued a joint statement yesterday in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said in a Jan. 2 speech that Taiwan “must and will be” united with China based on the so-called “1992 Consensus.”

Taiwan’s indigenous have inhabited the island for over 6,000 years, long before the first Han Chinese settlers reached its shores.

In their statement, titled “Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan to President Xi Jinping of China,” Taiwan’s indigenous leaders write that Taiwan “has never belonged to China.”

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“We are the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and have lived in Taiwan, our motherland, for more than six thousand years,” the letter says. “We are not ethnic minorities within the so-called ‘Chinese nation.’”

The statement is particularly powerful as Taiwan’s indigenous, who are not descendants of Chinese settlers, predated colonial incursions by foreign intruders from what are now Holland, Spain and Japan – along with, of course, China.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long struggled to back historically debated claims over its western regions, including what are now Tibet and Xinjiang autonomous regions. In the latter case, the CCP maintains the existence of Han dynasty protectorates dating back to 60 B.C. in what is now Xinjiang, although the claim is highly disputed by independent historians.

However, Xi cannot deny the standing of the indigenous communities of Taiwan on an island he says must “unify” with the “motherland.”

Below is the full text of the statement, translated by the team at g0v and republished via CC0 license:


Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan to President Xi Jinping of China

Joint Declaration by the Representatives of the Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan within the Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee

Mr. Xi Jinping, you do not know us, so you do not know Taiwan.

We are the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and have lived in Taiwan, our motherland, for more than six thousand years. We are not ethnic minorities within the so-called “Chinese nation”.

Stories told by our ancestors about the mountains, forests, grasslands, valleys, rivers, islands, and oceans of Taiwan testify that Taiwan is – and has always been – the traditional territory of the indigenous peoples on this land.

Taiwan is the sacred land where generations of our ancestors lived and protected with their lives. It has never belonged to China.

We the indigenous peoples of Taiwan have witnessed the deeds and words of those who came to this island, including the Spanish, the Dutch, the Koxinga Kingdom, the Qing Kingdom, the Japanese, and the Republic of China. We signed contracts with the Dutch and peace agreements with the Americans.

We have fought against imperialism and every foreign intruder of our land. We have suffered military suppression from colonial and authoritarian regimes.

Once called “barbarians”, we are now recognized as the original owners of Taiwan.

We the indigenous peoples of Taiwan have pushed this nation forward towards respect for human rights, democracy, and freedom. After thousands of years, we are still here.

We have never given up our rightful claim to the sovereignty of Taiwan.

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Credit: Reuters / TPG
Taiwan's indigenous are standing in defense of the sovereignty of their land after last week's speech by Xi Jinping.

Mr. Xi Jinping, you do not understand dignity, so you misunderstand greatness.

Indeed, we are not satisfied with the current state of Taiwan, the sovereign state that has been built upon our motherland. This nation has just started paying attention to historical and transitional justice for the indigenous peoples. It has just begun to recognize its own ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as different understandings of history within its diverse peoples.

Nevertheless, Taiwan is also a nation that we are striving to build together with other peoples who recognize the distinct identity of this land. Taiwan is a nation accommodating diverse peoples trying to understand each other’s painful pasts, as well as a nation in which we can tell our own stories in our own languages.

Together we decide what kind of country Taiwan should be, and we work hard to improve its current state. This is dignity.

Whether it is the Kanakanavu people with only three hundred members, or the Amis with two hundred thousand members, each of us indigenous peoples have equal rights to self-determination. This is dignity.

We do not share the monoculturalism, unification, and hegemony promoted by you, Mr. Xi, on behalf of the government of China. It is by far not a path to greatness.

Being humble to the land, respecting other lives, to co-exist with other groups of people in pursuit of common good – these are values that we believe in.

Mr. Xi Jinping, people should not harm each other, no matter their differences.

In the speech you presented on behalf of the government of China, Mr. Xi, you have demonstrated your military strength and insisted on reunifying Taiwan with the implementation of “One Country, Two Systems”. You also stated that no harm will come to those who are “Chinese”.

However, any violence is wrong, and no one should be harmed for their identity or beliefs, Chinese or otherwise.

We have witnessed in the “autonomous regions” the Tibetans and the Uyghurs being driven into cultural, linguistic, and religious extinction after they became “Chinese”.

We have witnessed the people of Hong Kong quickly losing freedom and democracy under “One Country, Two Systems”.

We have witnessed how China’s own people cannot even speak out for or defend their fundamental human rights.

Mr. Xi, force does not lead to peace. As the old saying of Sakizaya goes, Misawacu hanizaay masasu takid – those who bully others will have the same brought back to them.

We urge you to bring true greatness to your country, to stop threatening the people of Taiwan with force, and to strive to bring human rights and freedom to the people of China.

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Credit: AP / Eddie Shih
Lin Man-may, left, and Ahmoyi, right, from the Taiya Tribe, in a traditional suit, pictured at a protest outside Taiwan's legislature in April 1997.

Mr. Xi Jinping, we the Taiwanese indigenous peoples will not be threatened and will make no concessions.

The future of Taiwan will be decided by self-determination of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples and all the people who live on our motherland.

No government, political party, or organization has the right to negotiate with any foreign power in an attempt to surrender the control of the traditional territory of ours, the indigenous peoples of Taiwan.

We are the determined guardians of our motherland, as we have been for thousands of years, and will continue to be.

If one day China abandons its distorted understanding of history, nationality, and statehood;

If one day China becomes our friendly neighbor and stops claiming its forceful “parenthood” upon us;

Only then will we propose a toast to China, our neighbor, with a cup of millet wine in all our sincerity.

Pasola xmnx na mansonsou! (May every time you breathe, you breathe smoothly; Tsou)

Signatories: 浦忠成(Tsou)、馬千里Mateli Sawawan(Pinuyumayan)、Magaitan.Lhkatafatu(Thao)、伍麗華Saidai Tarovecahe(Rukai)、夏錦龍Obay.Ataw.Hayawan(Saisiyat)、Eleng Tjaljimaraw(Paiwan)、鴻義章Upay Kanasaw(Amis)、曾華德 集福祿萬(Paiwan)、林碧霞Afas Falah(Amis)、帖喇.尤道Teyra Yudaw(Truku)、伊斯坦大.貝雅夫.正福Istanda.Paingav.Cengfu(Bunun)、伊央.撒耘Yiyang Sayion(Sakizaya)、吳新光voe-uyongana(Tsou)、潘經偉(Makatao)、孔賢傑’Avia Kanpanena(Kanakanavu)、Uma Talavan萬淑娟(Siraya)、潘杰Watan Teymu(Seediq)、陳金萬(Ketagalan)、謝宗修Buya.Batu(Kavalan)、葛新雄(Hla’alua)、蘇美琅Savi Takisvilainan(Bunun)、吳雪月(Amis)

Read Next: TAIWAN: Towards a Higher Education Inclusive of Indigenous Cultural Principles

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