Following controversy over discriminatory remarks against Aborigines by politicians, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉) of the Sediq tribe yesterday proposed an anti-discriminatory law to penalize discriminatory actions and speech.
“No matter whether it’s the remark by [former KMT Central Standing Committee member] Liao Wan-lung [廖萬隆] or the term ‘stupid savage’ that a Taoyuan County police officer used to refer to an Aborigine, all these incidents show that the ‘ethnic equality’ clause in the Constitution is not sufficient,” Kung told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan. “Thus I am proposing a law to ban and penalize discriminatory actions and language based on ethnic background.”
In a recent KMT Central Standing Committee meeting, Liao said that intermarriage between Aborigines and non-Aborigines should be discouraged to maintain the “purity” of Aboriginal blood. While elaborating his ideas to the media, he called the nation’s Aborigines “hybrids,” using the word zazhong (雜種), which can be roughly translated as “mongrels.”
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has also triggered protests from Aborigines several times when he made remarks considered derogatory by Aborigines.
Kung said that, in his version of the draft bill, he proposed to impose a NT$300,000 (US$10,427) fine on repeat offenders.
“This law is not only seeking to penalize those making discriminating remarks against Aborigines, but would also apply to all ethnic groups in the country,” he added.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩) of the Puyuma tribe said she supported Kung’s idea in principle, but added that she felt sad that there was a need for such a law.
“Respecting different ethnic groups is a basic thing, I wouldn’t think that there needs to be a law for it,” she said. “But sadly, it appears that there is such a need.”
She went on to say that she was also discussing with her aides whether to propose her own version of the law.
Indigenous Peoples’ Action Coalition of Taiwan spokesman Oto Micyang said that revising current laws that are actually harming Aboriginal rights is a more urgent matter.
“You are proposing a law to penalize people who make discriminatory remarks, but how many people actually do so nowadays? I live in the city and all my neighbors are non-Aborigines, but they don’t say anything bad to me because of my ethnic background,” he said. “However, what’s more serious are laws that are restricting our rights to the land, to education [about traditional cultural and language] and to autonomy.”
Wu Jia-zhen (吳佳臻), director of TransAsia Sisters Association’s Northern Taiwan Office — an advocacy organization for the rights of immigrant spouses from Southeast Asia — said that while the idea sounded good, it could be difficult to implement.
“The legislation may only be symbolic, because we already have many laws that guarantee ethnic equality, but the implementation is not so easy,” Wu said. “For example, a clause in the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) penalizes discriminatory actions and languages, but the victim is required to prove that he or she is a victim, and that’s sometimes a little difficult to do.”