Taiwan apologises to indigenous people for first time
01 August 2016, 17:26
Taipei – President Tsai Ing-wen formally apologised to Taiwan's
indigenous people for their centuries of suffering on Monday, the country's
first ever leader to do so.
Tsai, the island's only leader with aboriginal blood, will
personally head a committee to investigate past injustices as part of
government efforts to ease tensions with the native community.
"I apologise to the indigenous people on behalf of the
government, to give our deepest apology over the suffering and injustice you
endured over the past 400 years," she said in speech.
"We need to look at history seriously and speak out the
truth," she said, adding that apologising was "another step
Hundreds of aboriginals staged protests outside the presidential
office in Taipei over the weekend, calling for protection of their hunting
rights and demanding concrete actions from the government.
The indigenous community – which makes up about two percent of
Taiwan's 23.5 million people – have seen their traditional culture eroded since
immigrants started arriving from China centuries ago.
Much of their land is now designated national park, leading to
clashes over hunting, fishing and foraging in areas where permits are needed.
Today, they are still a marginalised group, with wages about 40%
less than the national average, as well as a higher rate of unemployment.
Tsai pledged to increase autonomy and rights for indigenous people
during her election campaign, which saw her Democratic Progressive Party win a
landslide victory in January.
Earlier on Monday, tribe members invited to witness Tsai's speech
burned millet stalks in front of the presidential office as part of a ceremony
calling out to ancestral spirits to join them.
She then greeted the representatives from each of the 16
recognised tribes, who wore their traditional tribal clothing.