Hundreds of farmers yesterday rallied in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei to protest the Council of Indigenous Peoples “forcibly removing” them from their homes and “confiscating” their farmland.
Wu Tien-yu (吳天祐), chairman of the Taiwan Association for the Rights of Non-Aboriginal Residents in Mountain Indigenous Townships, led the rally, which was attended by members of the Association for the Rights of Nantou County Residents and farmers’ groups nationwide.
Wu accused the council of political persecution by launching lawsuits against the members of his organization and affiliated farmers’ groups, saying that it had unfairly labeled them as “intruding outsiders illegally occupying Aboriginal territory.”
“Many of our members have lived in the mountains for several generations, cultivating crops for their livelihoods. Most have legally obtained use of their land, and have paid land leases and other fees,” Wu said.
“The government has done much to protect the rights of Aboriginal people, but what about non-Aboriginal farmers? Our rights are being violated, but no one speaks up for us. We are farmers and residents in these townships, so we must be treated fairly as well, because we too are citizens of this country,” he said.
The groups brought Taoist priests to conduct a traditional ceremony involving prayer and chanting to seek divine help for their cause.
The farmers presented petitions to the Executive Yuan and the council demanding that laws be amended to permit the sale, ownership and leasing of the lands they cultivate, and to legalize the land ownership of farmers cultivating forest land.
They also demanded eligibility for farmers’ insurance and subsidies for agricultural damage from typhoons and other natural disasters.
Wu presented reports and figures showing that there are 70,000 “Han farmers” and non-Aboriginal residents with household registry in Aboriginal districts.
When their family members are included, it totals about 200,000 people, Wu said.
“The government and the council must not ignore our existence. [We] have been cultivating and taking up agriculture in Aboriginal areas for generations,” he added.
Other group members said that the council has taken up litigation to force them out on alleged breaches of the Soil and Water Conservation Act (水土保持法), the Forestry Act (森林法) and other laws, citing a case from last year in which an 82-year-old woman was indicted and later sentenced to three months in prison.
“She had only built a simple hut as her residence and grew some fruit trees on designated Aboriginal land. This old lady had been living in this place for more than 50 years,” Wu said.
“The court convicted her for breaching the Soil and Water Conservation Act, but the law was enacted in 1994 and exempted residents who had already been residing in the affected districts, so the prosecution in the case was unjustified,” he added.
The council in a statement said that the Regulations on Development and Management of the Lands Reserved for Indigenous Peoples (原住民保留地開發管理辦法) take into consideration the land use rights of Aborigines and non-Aborigines, and “as long as non-Aboriginal residents do not contravene the law or breach leasing contracts, they can continue with current land use... The government has no plans to take back all the lands as the farmers’ groups have claimed.”
RISK FACTORS: ‘We hope people can cooperate and endure it ... it is possibly the very important last mile,’ Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said Taiwan’s COVID-19 restrictions and mask regulations are to remain the same next month, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The center reported 42,112 new local COVID-19 cases and 85 deaths, saying that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has dropped to a new low this month. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said that the center is keeping COVID-19 restrictions and mask regulations the same due to the local virus situation, and an increase in the number of imported cases of the new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of SARS-CoV-2, among other risk factors. Easing
TRAVEL CONFERENCE: Representatives from the two countries exchanged views on how to increase tourist numbers, with one identifying individual travel as a trend Taiwan and South Korea aim to increase the number of tourists traveling between the two countries to 3 million, government and tourism industry representatives said at a conference in Hsinchu City yesterday. The annual event was attended by Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯); Tourism Bureau Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰); Taiwan Visitors Association chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭); South Korean Representative to Taiwan Chung Byung-won; Yoon Ji-sook, an official at the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and Korea Association of Travel Agents chairman Oh Chang-hee. Global tourism is expected to soon rebound to between 55 and
DAMAGE CONTROL: The KMT in a statement called the Taiwan Strait ‘international waters,’ after Alexander Huang said China had the right to claim it as internal waters Lawmakers and experts yesterday accused the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) envoy to the US Alexander Huang (黃介正) of acting as China’s stooge, after he said that Beijing has the right to claim waters beyond its maritime territory as its exclusive economic zone and that the US has no legal basis to assert that the Taiwan Strait is an “international waterway.” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said in an online post that most of the world considers the Strait an international waterway, adding that this is important for safeguarding Taiwan. “We have seen US warships transiting through the Taiwan Strait.
The Taichung District Court yesterday sentenced to nine years in prison an unlicensed judo coach who caused the death of a seven-year-old student after slamming him onto the ground more than a dozen times. In its decision against the coach, a man surnamed Ho (何), the court cited his lack of remorse for using excessive force against an inadequately trained child and his failure to reconcile with the parents for his role in their son’s death. Speaking on behalf of the boy’s mother, Taichung City Councilor Jacky Chen (陳清龍) said the family would appeal to a higher court. Prosecutors said that Ho on