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Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines Statement to UNWGIP

August 1993

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Report of the Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations

August 1993

19 - 30 July 1993
Geneva, Switzerland

Name of Organization: Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines
Address: 5F; 7 Cheng Kuang Rd., Sec. 2, Yung-Ho, Taipei, Taiwan
Tel: (02) 928 6120
Fax: (02) 928 6120

Name of President: Mao Lung-chang
Aboriginal Name: Panu Chapmumu
Title: Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines
City of Publication: Taipei, July 16, 1993

Report of the Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines in the World Conference
on Human Rights, Vienna, 14-25 June, 1993


Greetings to the representatives of Indigenous People from all over the World, and also to the participants from NEG. I would like to thank all of You for sharing our experience on the issues of Aborigines to each other in this Conference.


Now I will give you a brief introduction to my Organization -- Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines (ATA). ATA was organized and established on December 29, 1984 by a group of Taiwan Aborigines, missionaries and Han people who have the qualification of humanitarianism. We foresee that Taiwan Aborigines have suffered for a long time unequal treatment from economic exploitation, social discrimination, political oppression and negligence of culture. Taiwan Aborigines are truly encountering a crisis of racial extermination. This Alliance is a social movement that strives for economic benefits, political rights and social position.

Taiwan's total area is 35,981 square kilometers: 394 km in length and 144 km in width. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, its neighbors are China to the west, the Philippines to the south, and Japan to the north.

Before 1620, only Indigenous Peoples occupied Taiwan. What follows is a summary of the colonial governments that have ruled Taiwan from 1624 to 1992:

1) The Dutch and Spanish Colonial Period (1624-1661)

In 1624 and 1626, respectively, the Dutch and Spaniards invaded Taiwan backed by government forces. They sought to subjugate the Indigenous Peoples with their superior material power and their fervor of religious indoctrination. During this time, some of the Pinpu People lost their autonomy, but the vast majority of other Indigenous Communities remained unaffected.

2) Cheng Rule and the Manchu Colonial Period (1661-1895)

Cheng Chen-kung waged war against the Dutch in a struggle to lay claim
to Taiwan, and his subsequent victory ensured his position as colonizer. At the same time, the Chinese rulers were non-Han Manchus, another ethnic minority within China. During Cheng's rule, his forces occupied the western plains of Taiwan and a small part of the mountainous areas. Attempting to protect their land and tribal territorial lines, the Indigenous Peoples had countless conflicts with the Han, who were gradually invading the territory of the Indigenous Peoples and assimilating them. In 1885, without obtaining the consent of the people of Taiwan, the Manchu regime annexed Taiwan. In 1895, the mountains and the Eastern plains were still under the effective control of the Indigenous Peoples.

3) Japanese Colonial Period (1895-1945)

In 1895, the Manchu government lost the Sino-Japanese War and signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, ceding Taiwan to Japan. The Japanese government began to exploit Taiwan's economic resources through a systematic, capitalistic style of management; it was during this period that the subsistence lifestyle of the Indigenous Peoples began to crumble. In order to obtain control over Taiwan's forests, mineral resources, water and tourism potential, the Japanese rulers contained the Indigenous Peoples in "Mountain Reservations" thus slashing the traditional territory of 2,000,000 hectares to 24,000 hectares, to which the Indigenous Peoples had only utilization rights but could not claim permanent possession. In order to squash resistance from the Indigenous Peoples, the Japanese colonial government launched a large number of massacres. During the "Five-Year-Expedition" between 1910 and 1914, 10,000 Taroko People were massacred. In 1930, in the Wushe Rebellion, the Japanese attacked six Taroko Villages with airplanes, cannons, machine guns and chemical weapons and massacred virtually all the men, women and children of the Villages. In order to assimilate the Indigenous Peoples, the Japanese government encouraged the Indigenous Peoples to use Japanese names, and forced children to speak Japanese under their compulsory elementary school program. It was during this period that the traditional political, economic, cultural, and social systems of the Indigenous Peoples began to collapse.

4) The Nationalist (KMT) Colonial Period (1949-Present)

After its defeat in World War II, Japan accepted the San Francisco
Treaty and its stipulation that Japan renounce its rights to "Formosa and the Pescadores" on September 8, 1951, ending 50 years of colonial occupation. In 1949, the Nationalist (KMT) militarist regime, after its defeat by the Communist government, fled to Taiwan. In order to consolidate its rule, the Nationalist government massacred thousands of Indigenous, Minan, and Hakka intellectuals in the early 1950s and imposed martial law, which was not lifted until 1987. In its policies toward the Indigenous Peoples, the KMT is the direct heir of its totalitarian and colonial Japanese predecessor, and indeed surpasses the latter in planning and implementing its policies. More discussion will be devoted to this subject in the next section.

After this short introduction to the history of Taiwan's colonial governments, and before proceeding, we, as members of Taiwan's Indigenous Peoples, have the obligation to inform the governments and Indigenous Peoples representatives who are attending this World Conference, as well as members of the United Nations, of the fact that, as the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has never ruled Taiwan. Taiwan belongs to the 20 million people of the island -- Taiwan does not belong to China.


1) Human Rights and KMT Policy

The government that rules Taiwan today is named the "Republic of
China", known as the KMT regime by both Indigenous activists and the opposition party. The KMT Constitution, implemented in 1947, was legislated in China and therefore grants us no right to self-determination and no collective rights as a group. The basic policy of the KMT government towards the Indigenous Peoples is one of artificial assimilation, aiming at the complete effacement from the Indigenous Peoples' consciousness of their own history, culture and language. Taiwan's government does not recognize the ethnic status of the tribes and our historical position in Taiwan; it has deprived us of our traditional right to the land and our traditional sovereignty.

2) Political Rights

Taiwan's government has deprived the Indigenous Peoples of their
political, cultural, economic, educational and social autonomy. In terms of political participation, it has designed a system of "protective quotas", symbolically handing the Indigenous Peoples a few seats in Taiwan's legislative bodies. In the parliament, where the majority rules, the rights and welfare of the Indigenous Peoples are completely at the mercy of the Han majority, a fact which renders our quotas little more than political ornament. The parliament can give no real expression to the will of the Indigenous Peoples. The rights of political participation for the Indigenous Peoples are manipulated by the KMT regime specifically and the Han people in general. Taiwan's political system is entirely under the control of the KMT and the Han people; Indigenous Peoples have absolutely no voice, let alone autonomy, in such a political system.

3) Legal Rights

When Indigenous Peoples have asserted their original rights, colonial governments have always been quick to negate these rights with the laws that they themselves have created. To this day, Indigenous Peoples have no legal status; many laws claim to protect the interests of Indigenous Peoples when, in reality, they are wielded to destroy the Indigenous Peoples as ethnic groups and take way their rights.

In 1987, the KMT government lifted martial law, and put in its place "National Security Law", which continues to impose many restrictions upon the mountain areas inhabited by Indigenous Peoples. Martial Law continues to rule these areas, Nothing illustrates the pervasive ignorance and oppression prevalent in this legal system more accurately than the complete absence of any multicultural consideration in Han law. All the laws of Taiwan are legislated according to the values of the Han people. The common laws of the Indigenous Peoples are neither incorporated into nor acknowledged by the laws of this land. The legal system, only serves the Han people at the expense of the Indigenous Peoples.

4) Land Ownership and Economic Rights

In recent years, under the current government's policy of massive development of the areas in question, demand and exploitation has occurred on several fronts: forested land has been assigned to the management of the Bureau of Forestry, land with mining potential has been claimed as national property; areas noted for their natural beauty and tourism potential have been designated national parks; and the Ministry of Defense has appropriated vast tracts of land from the Indigenous Peoples under the pretext of national security. The last pieces of land upon which the Aborigines rely for their survival have been taken away, and their consent was never sought in the process. In order to build national parks, industrial zones, and reservoirs, the government forcibly relocated Aborigine tribes such as Fu-Shih village of Shou-Lin County, Hualien, in the case of the Taroko National Park; Mei-Shan Village of Taoyuan County, Kaohsiung, in the case of the Yu-Shan National Park; the ancestral graves of the Bunun tribe in Tong-Pu Village, Shin-Yi County, Nantou; the village within the Ho-Ping cement industrial district in Shou-Lin county, Hualien; and the Hao-Cha village in Wu-Tai county, Pin- Tung, in the case of Wu-Tai Reservoir; to name only a few. After government policy is formulated, the Indigenous People involved have absolutely no channel through which to express their opinion, indeed lacking the very right to do so. In a word, virtually all land with development value has been occupied and exploited.

Every year Indigenous Peoples from various parts of the island, uninformed of or unable to obey these laws, are punished legally and often must serve 2-3 year prison sentences. Deprived of their resources and lands, Indigenous Peoples can no longer take out a living in their traditional tribal villages. Large numbers of those who are capable of physical labor have flowed toward the industrial towns and cities to become laborers.

According to the official statistics in 1989, 48.8% of the Indigenous People are agricultural workers, while the rest work in Non-agricultural Professions. The vast majority of the Indigenous Peoples who become city-dwellers enter labor-intensive jobs that require little or no technical training and tend to be low in both status and pay. The men are primarily workers in wood and steel manufacturing, truck drivers, miners, and deep- sea fishermen, while most women become electronic and textile workers. These industries are among the most labor-exploitative industries in Taiwan. Many Indigenous workers frequently find that their pay is withheld without reason. They have neither labor insurance nor a pension, and are constantly threatened with unemployment.

5) Cultural and Educational Rights

The Indigenous Peoples were not only unable to reclaim their ancestral names, but under the assimilationist policy of the Taiwan government, they were denied even the right to register their citizen identification with their traditional names. The family organization of each Indigenous People, once perfectly clearly described by our traditional system of names, has completely disappeared.

The Cultural Gardens of the Indigenous Peoples, designed as a museum, is being built and managed by the KMT government. It is being built upon land bought at a price far below market value from the local Indigenous Population, and its commercial attraction is to put existing Indigenous Cultures on display for tourist consumption.

For the last forty years, children have been forbidden to speak their own language in the schools, let alone learn that language as part of their education. All the textbooks for elementary and middle schools are homogenized and edited by the government, and thus are devoid of any references to the culture, history and ethnic consciousness of the Indigenous Peoples. Only 0.3% of the Indigenous Peoples had received a college education in 1989, while 5.8% of the Han population already had college degrees in 1978. All in all, the educational system systematically discriminates against the children of the Indigenous People.

6) Social Rights

In 1978, the government, in a blatant deception of the Yami people of the island of Lan-yu, announced the construction of a military harbor and widely publicized the employment opportunities such a project would bring. The unsuspecting Yamis joined the construction project willingly, only to find out after its completion that the project was actually a nuclear waste dump. Currently Taiwan has three nuclear plants -- the construction of a fourth one is pending -- and all of Taiwan's nuclear waste is dumped on Lan-yu. Since this site has reached full capacity, the government is now planning expansion of the site. The Yami people are putting up stiff opposition, and the conflict is still unresolved. Without garnering the benefits of nuclear power, the Yami are yet tricked into shouldering the immense risk of a nuclear disaster - this is a classic case of racial discrimination and deserves international censure.

Last of all, a significant portion of Indigenous girls and young women have absolutely no human rights whatsoever. Bought and sold as child prostitutes, they are in every sense the victims of an established system of slavery with which the entire Han society is complicitious. Aged from 9 to 18, these girls are estimated to account for 20% of the child and adolescent prostitutes in Taiwan, a prosperous market that is part of the vast and ubiquitous Taiwan industry which thrives upon the sexual exploitation of women. Given hormonal shots, beaten, tortured, and repeatedly raped on a daily basis, these girls live entirely outside
modern society and the rudiments of human rights by which such a society supposedly defines itself. The survival of our race are reduced to commodities and denied their right to existence as human beings.


From 1984, there are a series of campaigns raised by Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines (ATA) on the following issues:

1) Name Correction Movement (December 1984 and May 1992)

We raised the issue to the public of deciding who are the Aborigines of
Taiwan, also developed the campaign to request to be called Aborigines in the official documents and in general usage, instead of the discriminative slangs like mountain people and mountain fellows.

2) Save the Young Aboriginal Women in Prostitution (January 1988)

Because there are so many young Indigenous women were sold to the city as prostitutes by the illegal bargainers, the women organization and ATA developed the campaign to raise the public concerns and to push our government to face the problems of the Human Right violations and social- economic inequality to the Indigenous People.

3) Recover Our Aboriginal Name System (January 1987)

The name system of Taiwan Aborigines and Han people are very different, though that, the government forced us to change our traditional one and accept the latter 40 years ago. Because the confusion of the name system, it causes that there are different last names in the same brotherhood. So we push our government to return our Aboriginal name to be used in the national affairs and in the society.

4) Get Nuclear Waste out of Lan-yu (February/April 1988 and May 1993)

The government ignored the living rights of the Indigenous People in Lan-yu, and began to dump the wastes of the nuclear power plants to their land 10 years ago. And the thing is still going on. We have developed several local campaigns to protest, also seeked the concerns from the International Indigenous People. So we now propose to draft a brief declaration under the name of NGO to accuse of the evil of our government.

5) Return My Lands (August 1988 and September 1989)

Most of our ancestral lands have been occupied by the brutal force of the state for 40 years. Considering that land is the most important resource of the Indigenous People, we have developed a series of campaigns to fight for our lost lands and to protect land rights through our traditional customs and laws. The fight is still going in the Parliament.

5) Anti-Wu Feng Myth (August 1985 and September - December 1987)

Wu Feng is a mythical hero invented by the Han People to distort the humanity of the Indigenous People. To eliminate the discrimination and the racism, we request the Dept. of Education delete the Wu Feng Myth from the elementary school textbooks.

7) Movement Against Establishment of State Parks in Aboriginal Lands (May 1993)

We have held two press conferences in the Parliament to emphasize that the Indigenous People have their own rights to develop their lands and their cultures without the intervention of State power. So we also push our senators to cut budget of State-Park-Establishments.

8) To raise the issue of self-determination and to propose the participation of Indigenous Peoples in the drafting of a new constitution (December 1992-present)

Considering the awareness among the Taiwan Aborigines on their land right, their cultures and their humanity, and also the tendency of International Indigenous People Movements. Especially this year 1993 is the year of universal Indigenous Peoples, we think that it is the time to focus our future on the rights of living and development of the Indigenous Peoples, and to push ourself in a more radical way. So we, ATA is ready to develop a series of campaigns on this issue in the near future.


The Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines faces a number of Challenges during 1993:

1) The challenge of allowing the Aboriginal Original Name, the Aborigines shall have the right to decide who is Aborigines.

2) The challenge to upgrade authorities of autonomy and competent administrative Authorities of Aborigines Affairs to the Central Class.

3) The challenge of allowing the Aboriginal People to use their own original name in the National Affairs and the Society.

4) The challenge of the Declaration on the rights of Asian
Indigenous/Tribal Peoples: We are of the Land.

5) The challenge of the Declaration on the rights of Asian
Indigenous/Tribal Peoples: We assert that we know what self- determining communities are. We demand that all recognize that we have always been self-determining.


We, Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines believe and have continued to participate with the Taiwan Aborigines in our quest for freedom, just, and peace. We give thanks for the support and encouragement of many friends around the world.


The distribution of population amongst Taiwan Aborigines

Taroko 30,000
Amis 129,220
Paiwan 60,434
Tayal 48,957
Bunun 38,267
Puyuma 8,132
Tsou 5,797
Saisiat 4,194
Thao 248
Rukai 8,007
Yami 4,335

Total Population: 337,342


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Source: Fourth World Documentation Project