Tsai Apologizes as First Step to Transitional Jusice for Taiwan's Aborigines

Tsai Apologizes as First Step to Transitional Jusice for Taiwan's Aborigines
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'The reason I am standing here today is because some people, up until now, still think an apology is unnecessary and still take other groups’ pain for granted.'

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President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) this morning made a formal apology to Taiwan’s Aborigines — a promise she had made before the presidential election in January.

Tsai’s apology speech covered four subjects, including giving Aborigines more recognition in Taiwan’s history, acknowledging past mistakes by the government, reconciliation, and providing specific strategies to promote their rights. Sixteen tribes were invited to attend the ceremony.

▶︎ See also: "Tsai Gets Passing Grade for Apology to Taiwan’s Aborigines."

Tsai, who has Payuan (Paiwan) ancestry, said Aborigines lost their right to self-determination when the country was established. “The reason I am standing here today is because some people, up until now, still think an apology is unnecessary and still take other groups’ pain for granted,” she said.

The Tsai administration’s future policy on Aboriginal issues includes the following six promises:

  1. The establishment of several organizations that focus on aboriginal rights, including an Aborigines transitional justice commission, an Aborigines basic law conference, and a legal service center for Aborigines;
  2. Protecting aboriginal rights to hunt non-endangered animals by reviewing previous related cases;
  3. Issuing a truth and investigation report regarding nuclear waste disposal on Lanyu (Orchid Island) as well as compensating the Yami (Tao) tribe inhabited on the island;
  4. Amending laws to recognize the Pingpu (Plain Aborigines) identity before Sept. 30;
  5. Proclaiming land that belong to Aborigines no later than Nov. 1;
  6. Passing several regulations, including aboriginal language development, land and territorial seas protection, and rights of autonomy, to strengthen the cultural inheritance of tribes and their rights of self-determination.

Tsai also said that a national Aborigines’ administrative conference will be held annually on Aug. 1 to update the government’s work on transitional justice for the people.

Land rights, rectification for Pingpu tribe

A TWReporter article by Salon・eishahavut(莎瓏.伊斯哈罕布德) and Mayaw Biho (馬躍.比吼), both Aborigine rights activists, says the real transitional justice taht Aborigines expect is the returning of land that belongs to them following a full investigation.

The authors argue that several government plots of land belonged to Aborigines years ago. However during Japan’s colonial rule, “Aborigines were not regarded as ‘human,’ but ‘animals’ and do not deserve to own land; therefore, they deprived us of our lands.” Decades later, the more than 1 million hectares of land have yet to be returned to them.

New Power Party Legislator Kawlo・Iyun・Pacidal (高潞・以用・巴魕剌) also stated yesterday that Aborigines’ land rights should be emphasized, adding that reconciliation would be a challenge for the government.

In a Facebook post Chen I-chen (陳以箴), a Pingpu Aborigine, argued that the government still does not show enough sincerity in protecting the Pingpu people’s rights, as they still refer to them as a "group" rather than a separate tribe in the official flowchart. However, the Council of Indigenous People corrected the matter during this morning’s ceremony by calling out the name of each tribe.

“Rectification is the first step toward transitional justice,” says Hanyu Talavan (萬盈綠), an activist of the Pingpu Siraya tribe.

The full text of President Tsai's apology is available here (Chinese).

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole

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