Fri, Feb 20, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Aborigines protest, shave heads

MAKE WAYThe approximately 120 residents along the Dahan River have been ordered to abandon their homes to make way for a riverside park and bike path

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Aborigines from the communities near the Kanjin Bridge in Taoyuan County yesterday shave their heads in front of the Executive Yuan in downtown Taipei to protest against the county government’s decision to relocate them.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Amis Aborigines from the Kanjin (崁津) and Saowac communities in Taoyuan County that are facing demolition rallied outside the Executive Yuan yesterday, calling on the central government to intervene.

The two communities are located on the banks of the Dahan River (大漢溪) in Dasi Township (大溪), Taoyuan County. The Kanjin Community got its name from the nearby Kanjin Bridge (崁津大橋), while Saowac is the Amis word for “riverside,” said Chang Chin-tsai (張進財), a preacher at the Saowac Church.

“Saowac has been there for 28 years,” Chang said. “The residents are Amis from Hualien and Taitung counties who migrated to Taipei and Taoyuan to find work, but could not afford housing.”

He said that the community has about 40 residents.

The 80 residents at the Kanjin Community share a similar background.

“I came here more than 20 years ago from Chengkung Township [成?Taitung County, because I could not find a job in my hometown,” said Azun Balis, a Kanjin resident. “After I got here, I found a construction job.”

In her sixties now, Azun still works part-time jobs on construction sites.

“With this recession, jobs are hard to find and if they tear down my house, I really don’t know how I can carry on living,” she said.

The demolition notices, issued by the Taoyuan County Government, came in May for Kanjin and December for Saowac, to make way for a riverside park and bike path. The county government said in the notice that the plan would also protect the Aborigines from the threat of flooding.

But Kanjin and Saowac residents resisted the eviction order, saying that in the decades they have lived there the areas have never flooded.

“No to forced eviction! We want to stay where we are!” nearly 100 residents from the two Taoyuan communities and their supporters shouted as they demonstrated.

Fifty of the demonstrators shaved their heads.

“They shaved their heads to show their determination to save their homes because they don’t want to see bloodshed, but if the government doesn’t respond to them, we Aborigines will certainly take more extreme action,” said Panay Luni, an Amis who came from Taitung to support her people.

“Most of these people are in their fifties and sixties. They have nowhere else to go. Why can’t they just be left alone?” Panay said.

Council of Indigenous Peoples Vice Minister Wang Chin-fa (王進發), who came out to meet the demonstrators, only promised he would help negotiate with the Taoyuan County Government.

“It would be a little hard to allow you to stay where you are since it’s illegal to live in a flood zone and all public servants must abide by the law. I’ll talk with the county government to see if we can come up with a better resolution,” Wang said, before being booed and interrupted by upset demonstrators, after which he hurriedly left.

“Our muddle-headed government only cares about achievements that people can see, they don’t care about people’s lives,” said Lin Chih-chiang (林志強), a Dasi Township councilor of Amis origin. “Politicians always say that they care about Aborigines and stand with us, but when they’re elected and we’re in trouble, they are nowhere to be found.”

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