’s President Tsai Ing-wen has for the first time formally apologized to the indigenous minority living on the island for centuries-long oppression committed against them.
“I apologize 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 a speech on Monday.
Tsai said she would personally lead a committee to investigate the past injustices as part of government efforts to ease tensions with the native community.
“We need to look at history seriously and speak out the truth,” she said, becoming the island’s first president to formally apologize to the native population.
Aboriginals staged protests outside the presidential office in Taipei over the weekend, calling for the protection of their hunting rights and demanding concrete action from the government.
The indigenous community, which makes up about two percent of Taiwan’s 23.5 million population, has seen its 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.
Tama Talum (R), an aboriginal hunter, prays for good luck before hunting with fellow tribe hunters at a mountain in Taitung, eastern Taiwan on July 2, 2016. (AFP Photo)
Today, they are still a marginalized group, with wages about 40 percent less than the national average, as well as a higher rate of unemployment.
Tsai pledged more autonomy and better rights for indigenous people during her election campaign, which saw her Democratic Progressive Party win a landslide victory in January.
The Taiwanese president is one quarter aborigine from her father’s mother, who was a native from Paiwan tribe.