Young Amis activists yesterday lashed out against the Republic of China (ROC) government over the seizure of Aboriginal land, calling it a “robber” just like the Japanese colonial government, which also seized Aboriginal land. Their criticism came after the Presidential Office rejected a request that a plot of Amis land in Hualien County be returned to the tribe.
During the Japanese colonial period, the plot of more than 1,200 hectares was taken over by the Japanese government and turned into sugarcane plantations and a sugar mill.
The ROC government took over the site after the Japanese surrendered in 1945 and kept the sugar mill in operation until about 2002. In May, the area was reopened to the public as Danongdafu Forest Park (大農大富平地森林園區).
At the park’s inaugural ceremony on May 21, local Amis residents protested before President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), calling on him to return the land to the Amis. Ma accepted the petition and promised to look into the issue.
However, the Presidential Office’s reply disappointed the Amis.
In the letter, which Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies Association chairman Oto Micyang, an Amis, showed the media at a press conference yesterday, the Presidential Office said the government’s ownership of the land was beyond question, since it was transferred from the Japanese colonial government to the ROC government.
The letter said local Aboriginal residents never tried to register ownership of the land, hence, it was not Aboriginal land.
“This is completely unacceptable,” Oto said. “The Japanese took over Aboriginal land by force like robbers, and the ROC government took over the land from the Japanese. They are also robbers, just like the Japanese.”
He said that when the Japanese were gone, elders in the Amis villages in Hualien and Taitung Counties were happy at first, believing that they could get their ancestral lands back.
However, they were bitterly disappointed.
Following the ROC government’s takeover of Taiwan in 1945, there was the 228 Incident in 1947 and the Martial Law Era that followed, so “of course no one dared to claim their lands during at time,” Oto said.
Taoyuan County’s Dasi Township (大溪) Councilor Lin Chih-chiang (林志強) an Amis, who said he lost his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) membership because of his participation in the Aboriginal resistance against the KMT government, said that he feels sad that Aborigines constantly have to fight for ownership of their own land.
“I think that the government certainly knows that most of the state-owned lands are Aboriginal lands, but they just don’t admit it,” Lin told reporters.
“According to figures from the initial period of the Japanese colonial time, as much as 1.7 million hectares — about 45 percent — of Taiwan’s land area were owned by Aborigines. But now, from being the biggest landowner in Taiwan, we Aborigines have become the disadvantaged ones,” he said.
To protest against the Presidential Office’s response, the Amis have decided to launch a walk-a-thon from the Amis village of Tafalong — administratively in Guangfu Township (光復), Hualien County — on Monday, which will end with a rally on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei next Friday.
“I know the president will only learn things from reading the newspaper, so we’re bringing our issues to the Presidential Office for him,” Oto said.
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