The government must take steps to legally preserve the diversity of Taiwan's multicultural society while simultaneously working toward ethnic reconciliation, said academics and experts at the Ethnic and Cultural Development Conference yesterday.
\nFuture policies should legalize the use and establish the importance of local languages, seek to accurately reflect a multicultural Taiwanese identity and avoid the assimilation-focused policies of the past, they said.
\nOver 200 participants gathered to talk with academics and political figures in the National Central Library on the first day of the three-day conference sponsored by the Council for Cultural Affairs, Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP), Council for Hakka Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Veterans Affairs Commission.
\nIn his opening remarks to the conference, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) urged people to forget the mistakes of the past and focus on the future.
\nHe called for mutual acceptance and understanding between ethnic groups in order to work together for a more prosperous Taiwan.
\n"The ethnic conflict and racism that exists in Taiwanese society comes mainly from the political oppression of the past half century, mistaken ethnic assimilation policies, and unrealistic conditions for a national identity -- not from conflict and biases between ethnic groups," Chen said.
\nFocus on law
\nA focus of the conference yesterday was a draft law making all the languages used by ethnic groups in Taiwan national languages.
\nThe proposed national languages development law would guarantee equal respect for all Taiwan-ese tongues, such as Hakka, Hoklo and all Aboriginal languages, Chen said.
\nThe law, emphasized Chen, would not demand that everyone learn all national languages and would establish Mandarin as the official language to be used in government and administrative proceedings, said Chen.
\nLegal recognition of each dia-lect's status is important, Chen said, because without such recognition "there would still be a long way to go towards ethnic reconciliation."
\nChen called on the conference participants to think of a framework for including a promised chapter on ethnic affairs in Chen's proposed new constitution.
\nIn response to Chen's call, conference speakers talked about ways to guarantee ethnic rights and develop local cultures and languages yesterday.
\nTo preserve Aboriginal cultures, the government should draft legislation promising Aboriginal peoples that it will never enact assimilation or ethnic cleansing policies, said Yohani Isqaqavut (
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