“For 400 years, every regime that has come to Taiwan has brutally violated the rights of indigenous peoples through armed invasion and land seizure,” Tsai said at a ceremony attended by representatives from 16 indigenous groups, according to Focus Taiwan News Channel. “For this, I apologize to the indigenous peoples on behalf of the government.”
Tsai’s comments mark the first time in Taiwan’s history that a leader apologized for the mistreatment of its indigenous population. In her apology, Tsai acknowledged the ways native people were marginalized over the centuries by occupants including the Dutch and colonial Japan. More recently, the Republic of China government implemented assimilation policies that banned tribal languages after 1945 and the Taiwan government stored nuclear waste on Orchid Island, where the Yami tribe lives, in 1982.
The government has since passed policies in the interests of indigenous people, such as 2005’s Indigenous Peoples Basic Law. However, Tsai said, government agencies “have not given sufficient weight to this law.” Tsai also announced various plans to rectify the situation for Taiwan‘s indigenous people, including setting up an Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Commission and an Indigenous Legal Service Center to pursue justice for indigenous tribes.
“Stereotypes and even discrimination against indigenous peoples have not gone away,” Tsai said. “The government has not done enough, so indigenous peoples have suffered pain and frustration unknown to other ethnic peoples.”