Following protests from Aboriginal groups, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday afternoon apologized for recent remarks he had made about Aborigines.
He said that he had not meant to humiliate indigenous people.
At issue was remarks Ma made at a campaign event on Dec. 8 in Sindian City (
The Amis community in Sindian is facing relocation by the Taipei County Government since their houses are built on a flood plain.
"No one should live where there is a danger of flooding. If you continue to live there, you will have problems," Ma told Saoma.
However, what Ma said next has drawn outraged reactions from Aboriginal communities.
"When you come into our city, you become one of us ... I [will] see you as a human being, as a citizen. I will educate you well, and give you opportunities," Ma said. "Aborigines should adjust their mentality -- if you come into the city, you have to play by our rules."
Ma said yesterday he had meant to say that the general public should take care of indigenous people and not discriminate against them if they move to the city.
When first approached by reporters for comment earlier in the day, Ma said he was "willing to apologize if my remarks made some people uncomfortable."
The absence of an apology enraged Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Icyang Parod, who held a press conference yesterday morning at which he condemned Ma for his comments and urged him to apologize.
"We Aborigines of all 13 tribes find Ma's statement unacceptable," Icyang said.
"Ma not only refused to admit his mistake, but said people have `taken his words out of context.' Today, he said he would be willing to apologize if some people felt uncomfortable about his words," Icyang said. "We are here to condemn Ma's ignorance of Aboriginal peoples and his arrogant and prejudiced statement."
"We'd also like to tell him that [his remarks] did not just make some people feel `uncomfortable,' but also angered all 480,000 Aborigines in the country," he said.
Icyang also protested against a comment Ma had made on several occasions to the effect that "Aborigines are not genetically disadvantaged, they just don't have opportunities."
The statement was printed on Ma's campaign flyers describing his stance on Aboriginal issues, and Ma also used it during his Dec. 8 visit to Sindian.
"By saying so, Ma keeps telling people that there is a genetic difference between Aborigines and non-Aborigines. This only shows he is a racist at heart," Icyang said. "He should apologize to Aborigines, as well as to Taiwanese society."
Members of several Aboriginal rights groups also staged a demonstration outside of Ma's campaign headquarters yesterday morning.
"Ma should withdraw from the presidential election. We don't need a president like this," Taiwan Aboriginal Society secretary-general Isak Afo told the crowd.
A minor physical clash broke out when demonstrators presented their protest letter to staff members at Ma's campaign headquarters.
Demonstrators were angered when staffers handed out flyers about Ma's campaign statement on Aboriginal policies.
Staffers allegedly also shoved some of the protesters.
Angered campaign staff then yelled at Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ying (
The two sides were quickly separated by police.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH
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