Fri, Jul 23, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Aboriginal protest to keep heat on Lu

HAN RACISM Tomorrow's rally will restate a demand that the vice president and president apologize for injuring the dignity of the nation's indigenous tribes

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF WRITER

Calling on Vice President Annette Lu and President Chen Shui-bian to apologize to indigenous people, Aboriginal representatives in traditional dress brandish knives during a press conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIEN JUNG-FENG, TAIPEI TIMES

The outcry in the Aboriginal community over recent comments by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) gained momentum yesterday when opposition Aboriginal legislators announced they would team up to stage a large protest tomorrow on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) doorstep.

Members of the nation's 12 Aboriginal peoples, including 11 of the 12 Aboriginal legislators, denounced Lu at a press conference, calling on her and Chen to issue a public apology to indigenous people.

"We are protesting against racism. We are doing this for our very survival," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Cheng-er (林正二) said.

Protest organizers said that they were hoping for 3,000 people to attend tomorrow's protest in front of the Presidential Office on Ketagalan Blvd in Taipei. It is scheduled to start at 3:30pm and end at 10pm.

The organizers hope to put on a consolidated show of force by the Aboriginal community against Lu for claiming two weeks ago that Aboriginal people were not the original inhabitants of Taiwan, and suggesting that mountain-dwelling victims of Tropical Storm Mindulle move to Central America.

Despite accusations of racism from indigenous people and their representatives nationwide, Lu has steadfastly refused to apologize, although Chen has urged them to forgive "certain people who made unintended remarks."

Elsewhere, in the village of Wushe in Nantou County, Aboriginal protesters in traditional dress and armed with ceremonial machetes lined up to fire homemade hunting rifles in front of a statue of a famed Aboriginal chieftain to express anger over Lu's comments.

Monaludao, an Atayal chieftain who led an ill-fated battle against Japanese troops in and around Wushe in 1930, is a long-standing symbol of Aboriginal resistance.

The shooting of the guns was only meant to be symbolic, but Nantou police are now investigating the incident to see if weapons offenses were committed.

second protest

Tomorrow's gathering in Taipei will be the second protest staged in relation to Lu's comments. The first was a short-lived hunger strike staged by independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) and People First Party (PFP) Legislator Tsai Chung-han (蔡中涵) last weekend. The 27-hour protest was broken up because it had not been authorized by Taipei authorities.

Organizers stressed that this time all participants ought to be indigenous people.

"We are very thankful for the support that many different groups have given the Aboriginal community in this matter. But Saturday is a time for the Aboriginal community to stand up for itself," said KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟), the chief protest organizer.

Liao said that organizers were working on ways to keep the protest peaceful, unlike the earlier effort, which was marred by a minor scuffle between police and supportive bystanders. Tomorrow's rally would be officially approved, he said.

Although the legislators' primary demand is a public apology from Chen and Lu, Tsai said that apologies were not enough and had to be backed by a commitment to making improvements to indigenous policy.

Responding to accusations that they were acting out of political self-interest, the legislators said they would be competing against one another in December's elections.

"Some people have said that we are doing this for votes, but they are wrong. We are all competing from different parties, but we are standing here together, because Lu has broken the hearts of the Aboriginal people," said protest co-organizer and PFP Legislator Lin Chun-te (林春德).

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