News / Asia

Taiwan MPs Give Aborigines Greater Autonomy

FILE - Members from the Taiwan Pingpu tribe protest during International Day of the World's Indigenous People near the presidential office in Taipei.
FILE - Members from the Taiwan Pingpu tribe protest during International Day of the World's Indigenous People near the presidential office in Taipei.
Ralph Jennings
Indigenous peoples’ push for legal autonomy in Taiwan reached a milestone this month when parliament changed a local governance law to give Austronesian aboriginal populations more power. The amended law removes a barricade to deeper tribal self-rule, a longstanding hope among aborigines, and may grab the attention of indigenous people elsewhere.
 
Taiwan’s parliament amended a law to extend self-governing rights to majority indigenous towns throughout the island. Under the law, townspeople will elect their own local representatives, rather than falling under non-aboriginal mayors of larger surrounding cities. Local leaders can also rename local government departments and decide how to spend money rather than following the budgets of higher officials. That could mean, for example, the council could decide to pave a road to an otherwise isolated group of mountain homes instead of resurfacing the town’s main highway.
 
Five indigenous towns lost those rights in 2010 when they were put directly under the mayor’s offices of Taiwan’s biggest cities. Kolas Yotaka, a producer with Taiwan Indigenous Television, called restoring these measures of self-rule a necessary step toward broader autonomy.
 
Yotaka said that when the law was being amended, several aborigine legislators thought the revision marked the return of a basic right. She said lawmakers also want to pass an indigenous autonomy bill as soon as possible. Only if that bill reaches final approval, she said, will indigenous people really be able to govern themselves.
 
Aborigines make up two percent of Taiwan’s 23 million people, and were on the island thousands of years before the majority Han Chinese arrived. When Chiang Kai-shek moved his Nationalist forces from China to Taiwan in the 1940s, his government forced the assimilation of indigenous people, diluting languages and cultural practices. However, four decades later, the government began offering tuition breaks to aboriginal youth, sponsoring events to restore cultural practices and preserving seldom heard native languages.
 
That support brought favorable attention to Taiwan from indigenous people elsewhere, including the Maoris in New Zealand and ethnic minorities in the mountains of the Philippines.
 
Attaining autonomy for Taiwan’s aborigines has been elusive and complex. Linda Arrigo, a Taipei-based academic who follows indigenous affairs in Asia and North America, said efforts at autonomy have failed so far because tribes have intermingled and their members live outside ancestral homelands.
 
“It’s very difficult to have [an autonomy law] for geographic reasons. There’s no way to do it like on the level of nations. In Taiwan, about half of indigenous people are in the cities anyway,” said Arrigo.
 
The cabinet proposed a self-rule bill in 2011, but indigenous activists criticized it as empty because it did not give aborigines their own land. With nothing else on the table, indigenous activists said the self-governance changes passed in parliament on January 14 may be the closest they get to autonomy.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs