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Law should be amended to recognize Pingpu aborigines: CIP

2010/05/24 20:23:41

Taipei, May 24 (CNA) The law must be revised if the governmentwants to grant official recognition to Pingpu plain aboriginescampaigning for their rights, an official said Monday.

"Under the Aboriginal Identity Act, only aborigines residing inmountain areas can be officially recognized as indigenous tribesmen,"said Lin Chiang-yi, deputy minister of the Cabinet-level Council ofIndigenous Peoples (CIP).

Until the act is amended, Lin said, the CIP must abide by theprinciple of rule of law in dealing with Pingpu people's desire forofficial recognition as aborigines.

But Jason Pan, the president of the Taiwan Association for RightsAdvancement of Pingpu Plain Aborigine Peoples (TARA-Pingpu) ,described Lin's legal argument as "ineffectual and circular."

"Article 2 leaves room open for further inclusion of groups aftera survey is done. The spirit of the law is inclusiveness, but it'sactually being used to exclude groups, " Pan said. "It's become apolitically discriminatory law that excludes the Pingpu people."

He questioned the government's interpretation of what anaborigine "residing in a mountain area" is.

"By Lin's standards, the Tao tribe and Amis should not berecognized as indigenous tribes, " Pan said. "Close to 50 percent ofso-called mountain aborigines now live in urban areas. Should theylose recognition status?"

The Tao live on Orchid Island, mostly in coastal areas, andAmis, the most populous officially recognized aboriginal group inTaiwan, live in valleys and coastal areas of eastern Taiwan, Pansaid.

Pan's group said Sunday that the United Nations specialrapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenouspeoples has accepted its request to probe what the group calls theTaiwan government's refusal to grant them official aboriginal status.

According to Pan, the group received a message from U.N. specialrapporteur James Anaya on May 6 saying its request would be given"close and careful consideration, " and that it could initiatecommunications with Taiwan's government on the issue.

Asked about the CIP's stance on the issue, Lin said the councilhas not yet received any information from the United Nations aboutthe Pingpu group's appeal.

"If the U.N. rapporteur takes the initiative to contact us, wewould be more than willing to communicate with him over the issue, "Lin said.

According to the official, the CIP has traditionally regardedPingpu tribes as an integral part of the Polynesian tribes, eventhough they have yet to secure official aboriginal status.

Lin said there are about 500,000 officially recognizedaborigines, while Pingpu plain aborigines number between 300,000 and400,000. If the definition is eased a bit, the number of Pingpuaborigines may exceed 1 million.

On Sunday, the CIP issued a statement reiterating its respect forvarious Pingpu tribal groups' appeal for official recognition oftheir status as indigenous peoples.

"The council will soon form a special task force to deal withPingpu affairs and will sincerely communicate with relevant advocacygroups," the statement said.

The council further said Pingpu aboriginal tribes in Taiwan'swestern plains have been gradually integrated with Han Chinese overthe past 300 to 400 years.

Different governing strategies during the Qing Dynasty and theJapanese colonial rule have led many of their descendants to choosenot to register their aboriginal status.

As a result, regulations governing aborigines under the currentlegal system cannot apply to them, he said.

The CIP further said it has drafted a five-year plan to revivePingpu aboriginal languages and culture, which is pending approval ofthe Executive Yuan.

(By Huang Ming-hsi and Sofia Wu)