Aboriginal rights advocates yesterday protested in Taipei, demanding that their names be written in the Roman alphabet on identification cards and official papers, and that Chinese versions of their name be dropped.
At the protest in front of the Ministry of the Interior, demonstrators urged the government to amend regulations that require a Chinese name and an Aboriginal name in the Roman alphabet on identification cards and official documents.
A restaurant chain recently had a big promotion for people whose names contained “salmon” (鮭魚), “but when we want to use only Aboriginal names with our own script system, we cannot do so, because the law does not permit it,” said Savungaz Valincinan, a Bunun graduate student at National Dong Hwa University.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
“This is unreasonable and unfair,” she said.
The Aboriginal Language Development Act (原住民族語言發展法) guarantees the use of “Indigenous scripts” to record Aboriginal languages, which covers Aboriginal names, she said.
The protesters said that some people have gone to their local household registration offices to apply to change to a traditional name, but were rejected as officials cited the Name Act (姓名條例), which states only three choices: a Chinese name, listed together with its rendering in Aboriginal script; a phonetic translation of an Aboriginal name, written in Chinese; and a phonetic translation in Chinese, listed together with its spelling in Aboriginal script.
“Our people were forced to use Chinese to write our names, but Chinese characters cannot be transliterated to closely match the sounds and meanings of our Aboriginal names,” said Bawtu Payen, an Atayal.
Lin Cheng-ching (林承慶), an Amis, said that the regulations contravene the Constitution’s guarantee of “equality among all racial groups” and protection against infringement on a person’s name or personality under the Civil Code, and contravenes the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
National Taiwan University professor Ciwang Teyra, of the Truku community, said that Taiwan signed on to the two UN covenants and has promoted human rights protections, “but if our Aboriginal names cannot be listed without Chinese characters ... it implies discrimination based on ethnicity.”
Deputy head of the ministry’s Department of Household Registration Cheng Hsin-wei (鄭信偉) said that the Name Act and the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民基本法) would have to be amended for the protesters’ request to be met.
“Discussion is needed on whether to continue with the current regulation, and the group’s petition will be forwarded to our staff, and be processed as outlined in the Administrative Appeal Act (訴願法),” he said.
Additional reporting by Jason Pan
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