Lawmakers have called on the National Security Bureau to investigate claims of pervasive Chinese influence among Aboriginal communities.
Legislators pointed to a surge in communist propaganda and Chinese-funded projects over the past few years, which they say are aimed at infiltrating and buying political influence among Aboriginal communities.
“China has for decades carried out wide-ranging ‘united front’ tactics and propaganda campaigns targeting Aborigines,” said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩), a member of the Puyuma community in Taitung County. “Now, they are influencing elections for local councilors and village chiefs, offering money for candidates to mount their campaigns, and to establish a network of Aboriginal friends and influencers.”
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
The bureau has found that China has used its “united front” strategies to garner influence, with all-expense-paid trips, Chinese companies helping to finance Aboriginal businesses, subsidies for Aboriginal farmers traveling to China for business, establishing “Taiwan agricultural trade emporiums” in China, donating to Aboriginal youth programs, financing school lunch programs, and funding harvest festivals and traditional events, Chen said.
“There are financial rewards for Aborigines going to China to engage in traditional crafts and farming for specialty crops, helping to set up and fund Aboriginal organizations in Taiwan, which serve as conduits for China to influence local villages and people,” she said.
“Chinese money has paid for fleets of ambulances and small buses for Aboriginal communities, under the names of Aboriginal lawmakers and local politicians,” she added.
During election campaigns, some local organizations take trips to tour China, with the participants paying only for airfare, while the Chinese government foots the rest of the bill as a way to “buy voter support,” Chen said.
Another method is for the Chinese government to instruct Taiwanese businesspeople based in China to make large political donations to certain candidates of the pan-blue camp, she added.
Chen demanded the bureau investigate these cases of Chinese money being used to support Beijing’s preferred candidates and influence elections in Aboriginal districts.
DPP Legislator Saidai Tarovecahe, a Rukai, said that China has made serious “united front” efforts over the past 20 years.
“I know it is very common for Aboriginal politicians and officials to take trips to China, including local district office staff, township mayors, village chiefs, county councilors, non-governmental organization executives and community leaders,” she said.
“Some go to China for to sell products, others for education and to tour Chinese universities, and also to create celebrity figures out of Aboriginal youths... China has donated buses and ambulances, painted with slogans, such as: ‘We are one family across the Strait,’” she said.
“We have also seen politicians working on behalf of China, who head into Aboriginal communities after natural disasters, handing out cash to local people, and doing many things to bolster ties with Aborigines,” she added.
Bureau officials said that China has programs targeting all 16 officially recognized Aboriginal peoples.
The Chinese government includes Taiwanese Aboriginal communities among China’s 56 ethnic minority groups, although it has said during UN forums that China does not have indigenous people, only ethnic minorities.
China’s propaganda efforts have been most successful in growing political influence among Taiwan’s Aborigines, bureau officials said.
They listed seven major tactics used by China: business incentives and procurement, funding and donations, cultural exchanges, promoting China as the “motherland” for Taiwanese youth, China-centric news and social media, political lobbying, and academic collaboration and scholarships for Aboriginal students.
“Through these seven schemes, all Taiwanese are subjected to Chinese ‘united front’ infiltration tactics and its influence, while Aborigines are especially targeted,” officials said.
In the past few years Aboriginal communities were invited to take tours in China, which provided NT$20,000 for each participant, and additional Chinese funding has poured into these communities to consolidate ties with traditional community leaders and promising up-and-coming youth, they said.
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