In 1978, the China Times published the winners of its first News Journalism Award, which included “The Customs of Taiwan’s Amis People” (阿美族的生活習俗), whose author said in an interview: “I hope that the Amis people will not be assimilated or completely disappear. Amis people should exist forever.”
She also expressed a hope that her son, a student at St Dominic Catholic High School, “will be a true Chinese.”
Decades later Yang Pin-hua (楊品驊), a young Amis from Hualien, proclaimed that he was a “proud Chinese” during a speech at last month’s Straits Forum in Xiamen, China, showing what it might be like to be a son who has become a “true, model Chinese” — precisely what that Amis’ mother and teacher wanted for her child.
Neither that teacher nor Yang understood that it is their behavior that has allowed this “greater China” view to crush and destroy the root of what it is to be Amis.
Aboriginal legislators are not any better. When meeting with Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Wang Yang (汪洋) in Beijing, Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) said that she believed Taiwan’s indigenous peoples are Chinese.
During a visit to China, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) said: “Taiwan’s indigenous peoples have three mothers in China [China’s National Ethnic Affairs Commission, the All-China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots and the Taiwan Affairs Office],” because they have the financial resources to serve them.
This beggar’s mindset calling anyone that provides a glass of milk “Mother” is truly embarrassing.
During a legislative interpellation session, KMT Legislator Yosi Takun (孔文吉) asked a Mainland Affairs Council representative: “What makes us think we can ask Beijing to give up forceful unification of Taiwan?”
He clearly forgot that his high monthly salary is paid by Taiwanese taxpayers. Not only did he fail to condemn Taiwan’s enemy, who has 2,700 missiles aimed at the nation, he actively defended this brutal, totalitarian empire.
In her book The History of Taiwan: A History of the Aboriginal Peoples in Taiwan (典藏台灣史：台灣原住民史), Chan Su-chuan (詹素娟), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, said: “Linguistically, culturally, and based on population distribution and networks, Taiwan’s Aborigines are Austronesian, just like the people on the many islands in the Pacific Ocean. Their ancestors lived in Taiwan as early as during the early Neolithic period about 7,000 years ago.”
Having lived on this beautiful island for 7,000 years, having developed cultures, history and wisdom as majestic as Yushan and as vast and deep as the Pacific Ocean, how could Aborigines uproot the historical and cultural foundations of their own existence in exchange for short-term benefits?
Are Aboriginal communities not the ones with the most legitimate position to make the statement that “Taiwan is not China”?
According to Hakka author and activist Chung Li-ho’s (鍾理和) novel Lishan Farm (笠山農場), Taiwan’s rapid and complex democratization poses a problem for Aborigines.
Chung, who died in 1960, wrote that “the people and customs in this place are still so pure and kind, and at the same time very conservative. They never worry about their own destiny and life... They just seem to think that is the way things are, so there is no need to worry. They do not complicate life.”
In 1969 in West Germany — a society that avoided transitional justice and was still anxious about finding its way — sociologist Theodor Adorno used Immanuel Kant’s concept of “self-incurred immaturity” in a call to establish education that would help the public understand the need to strive for wisdom and maturity.
The idea was that the authoritarian mindset still existed in West German society, and the only way to enable people to become resilient toward authoritarian tendencies was through an education toward autonomy, reflection and self-determination, as real democracy can only be understood as a society of mature citizens and personalities.
In the same way, a solution to the issues facing Aborigines should be constructed and undertaken by all 23.5 million Taiwanese.
Omi Wilang is secretary-general of the Indigenous Peoples’ Action Coalition of Taiwan.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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