The law must be revised if the government wants to grant official recognition to Pingpu Aborigines campaigning for their rights, Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) Deputy Minister Lin Chiang-yi (林江義) said earlier this week.
Saying that the Aboriginal Identity Act (原住民身份法) stipulates that only Aborigines residing in mountain areas can be officially recognized as Aborigines, Lin said until the act is amended, the CIP must abide by the principle of the rule of law in dealing with the Pingpu people’s desire for official recognition as Aborigines.
Jason Pan (潘紀揚), president of the Taiwan Association for Rights Advancement of Pingpu Plain Aborigine Peoples, however, described Lin’s legal argument as “ineffectual and circular.”
“Article 2 leaves room open for further inclusion of groups after a survey has been done. The spirit of the law is inclusiveness, but it’s actually being used to exclude groups,” Pan said. “It’s become a politically discriminatory law that excludes the Pingpu people.”
He questioned the government’s interpretation of what an Aborigine “residing in a mountain area” is.
“By Lin’s standards, the Tao tribe and the Amis should not be recognized as Aborigines,” Pan said. “Close to 50 percent of the so-called “mountain Aborigines” now live in urban areas. Should they lose recognition status?”
The Tao live on Orchid Island, mostly in coastal areas, and the Amis, the most populous officially recognized Aboriginal group in Taiwan, live in the valleys and coastal areas of eastern Taiwan, Pan said.
Pan’s group said on Sunday that the UN special rapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples has accepted its request to probe what the group calls the Taiwanese government’s refusal to grant the Pingpu official Aboriginal status.
Pan said the group received a message from UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya on May 6 saying its request would be given “close and careful consideration,” and that the UN could initiate communications with the Taiwanese government on the issue.
Asked about the CIP’s stance on the issue, Lin said the council has not yet received any information from the UN.
“If the UN rapporteur takes the initiative to contact us, we would be more than willing to communicate with him over the issue,” Lin said.
The CIP has subsequently issued a statement reiterating its respect for various Pingpu tribal groups’ appeals for official recognition of their status as Aborigines.
“The council will soon form a special task force to deal with the Pingpu affairs and will sincerely communicate with the relevant advocacy groups,” the statement said.