Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Aboriginal legislators on hunger strike

NO APOLOGY Annette Lu played down her remarks on Aboriginal origins, but not before some anti-Aboriginal figures within the DPP slammed indigenous 'privileges'

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

An Aboriginal man waves a traditional machete as Aboriginal representatives from several communities protest against Vice President Annette Lu's remarks in front of the Presidential Office yesterday.


Anger over contentious comments by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on residents in mountain areas, including Aboriginal communities, escalated yesterday when two Aboriginal legislators started a hunger strike in protest, even as the Presidential Office distanced itself from Lu's words.

Independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) and People First Party (PFP) Legislator Tsai Chung-han (蔡中涵) began the hunger strike yesterday morning in front of the Presidential Office, vowing to fast until the end if Lu did not apologize.

"President Chen, you and your government need to answer to Aboriginal people. If you do not give us a reasonable answer, we will fight on and `come out from the grass' (出草) at you," she said, using an Aboriginal expression for attacking an enemy.

Tsai demanded that Lu meet protesters and make a public apology to all indigenous people for her comments last week.

More than 50 Aboriginal supporters, many wearing yellow raincoats, joined Chin and Tsai yesterday in an unauthorized sit-down protest on Ketagalan Blvd starting at 10am. Protesters said they would hold their position outside the Presidential Office until Lu apologized.

The hunger strike is the latest round in a war of words that began when Lu blamed residents living in the disaster zone of Tropical Storm Mindulle for the severity of the damage. She said that overdevelopment was the main culprit and that victims warranted little sympathy.

Much of the disaster zone is located in Aboriginal administrative areas.

Lu further angered parts of the Aboriginal community when she claimed earlier this week that the indigenous people of Taiwan are not its original native inhabitants.

But in attempting to explain herself on Thursday, Lu added fuel to the outrage, saying that "black pygmies" predated indigenous people.

Various Aboriginal representatives spoke out against Lu's comments yesterday, while distancing themselves from Chin's protest.

"[Lu's] suggestion that Aboriginal people are not native to Taiwan and are outsiders is disrespectful and stems from an ignorance of the culture and history of the indigenous people," Independent Legislator Walis-Pelin said yesterday.

Pelin cautiously commended the spirit of Chin's protest but stopped short of associating himself with its goals.

"You have to be careful with social movements. You cannot use an aggressive opposing stance. We should affirm moves toward ethnic reconciliation," Walis-Pelin said, adding that he was planning to go to Aboriginal communities this weekend to consolidate support and then issue a group statement on the situation.

Although most Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) representatives have kept a low profile on the affair, DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-fang (蔡啟芳) yesterday held a press conference criticizing Chin and Tsai and supporting Lu.

`Soft and stupid'

"Aboriginals have become soft and stupid because of all the benefits the government has given them," Tsai said, adding that the government shouldn't give preferential treatment to any ethnic group.

Tsai later contacted the Taipei Times to qualify his comments.

"The Executive Yuan has been too protective of the Aboriginal people and has allowed them to reach a state in which they can no longer look after themselves," Tsai said, complaining about affirmative action measures that helped disadvantaged Aboriginal students, among other policies.

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