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Native Rights Bill in Taiwan Loses Support

Wearing their traditional warrior helmets and jewelry, Tao aboriginal elders arrive at a traditional fishing boat launching ceremony in a village on Orchid Island, Taiwan.
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Support for a bill to give Taiwan’s native people the right to govern themselves is slowly fading, one minister says.

Lin Chiang-yi, also known as Mayaw Dongi, is the minister of native, or indigenous, people in Taiwan. He has worked on the bill to give indigenous people the power to govern themselves. The bill made its way to parliament after many years of hard work, Mayaw says.

The bill also would give the island’s indigenous people a large swath of Taiwan’s already limited land.

The bill proposes awarding 45 percent of Taiwan’s land to the 2 percent of Taiwanese who are indigenous. They have lived on the island for at least 6,000 years. The Han Chinese arrived in the 1940s after the Chinese civil war. There are 16 indigenous groups.

Mayaw says he fears that the bill will not get attention between elections in January and the seating of a new government in May. Also, the proposed land exchange has little support.

Taiwan is an island of only 36,000 square kilometers and is controlled mostly by Han Chinese.

After years of forced assimilation, native people regained some rights in the 1980s.

Advocates like Mayaw say the native people need their own land and the ability to make their own laws.

Native people fighting for their rights in countries like New Zealand and the Philippines see Taiwan as a model. But those in Taiwan are looking for more and see autonomy as a next step.

In other election news, the main opposition candidate in January’s election named her running mate.

Tsai Ing-wen asked Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s health minister during the SARS outbreak in 2003, to be her vice presidential candidate.

Chen said he is obliged to serve because Taiwan is facing a “critical moment.”

Tsai and Chen will make up the Democratic Progressive Party ticket. They are the main challengers to Eric Chu, the candidate of the ruling Kuomintang. Chu named former labor minister Wang Ju-hsuan as his running mate on Wednesday.

The major issue in the upcoming election centers upon Taiwan’s relationship with China. The Kuomintang is seen as friendly toward Beijing, while the DPP provides an alternative option.

I’m Mario Ritter.

This story was written by VOA News. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

What are your thoughts about the struggles of the native people in Taiwan? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

indigenous – adj. lived in a region before others

assimilation – n. a person or group becoming like their new country or place

obliged – v. to do something because it is necessary