Scores of Puyuma people from Taitung County’s Paposong village protested outside the local police station on Wednesday over the detainment of Puyuma hunters on charges of violations of the Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives Act (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例) late on Tuesday night, a day before the Puyuma people’s public holiday and amid the tribe’s mangayaw hunting festival, which is held each year from Dec. 29 to 31.
More than 100 Puyuma men went into the Taiyuan Mountains in Taitung on Monday for the hunting festival. However, nine of them were arrested by police during the hunt late on Tuesday night on charges relating to the gun control act.
Four of the nine were released the next morning, while the remaining five hunters were detained until Wednesday afternoon, after police handed them over to the Taitung District Prosecutors’ Office, which later freed them.
Scores of Puyuma people gathered in front of the Chenggong Police Precinct, in the county’s Chenggong Township (成功), to protest the arrests on Wednesday and even tried to block a patrol car carrying the five detained hunters to the prosecutors’ office.
The people stressed that the hunting had been preregistered with the local government and questioned the arrests.
“The activity was legal and taking place in a legal place with legal guns. Why do we still have to face [the police’s] abuse of power? This is a violation of the Puyuma people’s human rights, which is why we came here to voice our discontent,” Association for the Development of Pinuyumayan People’s Self-Governance chairman Agilasay Pakawyan (林志興) said.
The Puyuma people’s mangayaw, or hunting festival, is an annual ritual ceremony that is “as important as the Han people’s Lunar New Year,” Yapasuyongu Akuyana (陳旻園), Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policy chief executive, and Tu Yu-wen, Environmental Jurists Association board member, wrote in an article published online protesting the arrests and alleging disrespect of the culture of the Puyama people.
“Imagine that you [Han] are arrested by the police when you’re burning joss paper during the Lunar New Year on the charge of arson. How would you feel?” they wrote.
The arrest of the Puyuma hunters was the second of its type in a week. On Thursday night last week, a group of Atayal people who went hunting during a festival were detained by the police on similar charges.
The two international human rights covenants that have been passed by the legislature state that all peoples have the right to enjoy their own cultures and the right to self-determination, and the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民族基本法) also grants Aborigines the right to hunt wild animals for traditional rituals or consumption.
“Even the gun control act has a decriminalizing article for Aboriginal people, and these edicts, abstract or concrete, have all affirmed Aborigines ’ rights to hunt based on their own traditions,” Akuyana and Tu said.
They excoriated the police for what they called their “abuse of power in order to boost their performance records” and their superiors for allowing the conflicts to repeatedly occur, and accused the “Han regime” of disrespecting cultural diversity and slighting its own laws.
Chenggung Police Precinct Chief Chang Pei-ming (張沛銘) said the group was detained for carrying “unregistered shotguns and ammunition.”
A dead muntjac, a protected species, was found in their possession, he added.
Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Lin Chiang-yi (林江義) yesterday affirmed that the hunting was pre-registered and said that while some Puyuma people carrying unregistered shotguns did run afoul of the law, “the fact that the police arrested them as criminal suspects in their legal hunting area has caused the Puyuma people to suspect that law enforcement was targeted against them.”
“The police’s way of enforcing the law was indeed questionable and has seriously impeded the procession of the ritual,” Lin said, adding that the council would soon hold discussions with the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency to avoid similar confrontations.
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