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This article appeared on page 8 of the July 22, 1999 edition of the Taipei
Times newspaper. It provides a good insight into the nature of official racism
against Aboriginal peoples that is still powerful in

Article begins:

The Pingquanhui: the face of Taiwan racism
ON JULY 5 1999 a scandal broke involving the Tungkang Credit Union in
Pingtung County when NT$900 million in capital was discovered to have gone
missing. The discovery led to an order preventing KMT legislator and
Tungkang Credit Union chairman Kuo Ting-tsai from leaving the country while
investigations continued. The case has been one of a spate of recent stories
raising concerns over possible "black gold" influence in political dealings.

But Kuo Ting-tsai’s connection to controversial organizations by no means
ends with the Tungkang Credit Union. His name also emerged in an
investigation conducted late last year by Academia Sinica researchers Ku
Yu-chen and Chang Yu-fen, which identified him as an important patron for a
conspicuously racist organization, the Alliance of Taiwan Associations for the
Pro-motion of Rights of Plains People Living in Mountain Districts, or
Pingquanhui for short.

The Pingquanhui, which seeks to eradicate benefits or laws favouring
Taiwan’s Aboriginal peoples, has the support of many local companies,
segments of the tourism industry and ethnic Chinese landowners, and is
particularly opposed to laws preventing reservation land from being sold on
the open market.

It grew out of a series of loosely connected, county based groupings of ethnic
Chinese living in Aboriginal areas in Nantou, Taichung, Pingtung, llan and
Taoyuan counties who feared the influence of the Aboriginal land rights
movement. That movement, which commenced in the late 1980s, sought to
address legal and illegal Chinese occupation of Aboriginal land, and
generated fears in ethnic Chinese that they would be forced to surrender
homes and land back to Aboriginal people.

In 1997, these groups came under the umbrella organization of the
Pingquanhui, headed by a
Taichung County policeman with extensive political
connections, Wu Tien-yu , and has since evolved into a small but far reaching
and occasionally effective lobby group. Its membership extends across most
sectors of ethnic Chinese society in the mountain districts and is also
composed of key agricultural co-operative officials and elected district

The racist and violent rhetoric of the Pingquanhui is worthy of note. According
to the report, the organization first utilized the slogan of "equality" between
Aboriginal and Chinese people in mountain districts in an effort to strike down
laws providing special rights to Aboriginal people. But with greater political
success this was augmented by the denial that Aboriginal people were native
Taiwan at all. Instead, Taiwan’s Aborigines are now said by the Pingquanhui
to be "the offspring of ‘black dwarf’ or ‘bird-devil savage’ slave labourers
brought to plunder Taiwan’s resources by the Dutch and the Spanish in the
seventeenth century." The Pingquanhui has also claimed that the promotion
of exclusive Aboriginal rights will lead to racial violence and bloodshed in the
mountain districts.

In addition, with their lobbying success came their more conspicuous use of
the term huan-a (a Hokkien word meaning "savage" and which has the
offensive strength of "coon" or "nigger") in an attempt to further stigmatize
Aboriginal people.

An unidentified legislative assistant to Kuo Ting-tsai is quoted in the Academia
Sinica report as saying that Kuo was instrumental at the very beginning of the
Pingquanhui’s activities and that its legislative influence was only realized with
his support. He and other legislators with ties to the group were also
responsible for watering down those laws benefiting Aboriginal people
through prohibiting the sale of reservation land as well as other legislation.
According to the report, Kuo is said to have had the following dealings with
the Pingquanhui:
(1)hearing representations from the Pingquanhui; (2) moving an amendment
to a legislative bill favoring Pingquanhui interests; (3) providing press
releases on the Pingquanhui; (4) acting on behalf of the group in
communicating with official bodies; (5) raising the issue of reservation land
during question time at the legislature; (6) attending the founding meeting of
the Pingtung County chapter of the Pingquanhui; and (7) employing staff
provided by the Pingquanhui for electoral campaigning.

The Pingquanhui’s national political network is not limited to the KMT, even if
the bulk of the group's officials and administrators are made up of KMT
members. The report lists Pingquanhui friends and legislative advocates in
the DPP and the New Party as well as an independent legislator; most have
spoken in the Legislative Yuan or the National Assembly on the group's behalf.
DPP legislator Tsai Huang-lang, for example, is alleged to have accepted
financial support from the Pingquanhui. DPP legislator Peng Pai-hsien, who
has also acted as an advocate for the group, put forward amend-ments to a
1996 bill establishing the executive level Council of Aboriginal Affairs which
limited its powers.

Intriguingly, the report also mentions presidential candidate James Soong
who in September 1995, during his tenure as provincial governor, is said to
have provided this organization with a "favorable response". In an effort to
court his favor, the Pingquanhui allegedly threw all its support behind Soong
during his 1994 election campaign. A secretary of the
Taichung County
branch of the Pingquanhui, Lin Chin-kun, is also reported to have been one of
Soong's campaign aides.

All of this provides an important clue as to the state of ethnic relations in this
country, in that an organization like the Pingquanhui is conspicuously active
within Taiwan’s main political parties at every level of government, and yet
does not attract substantive concern over what the Academia Sinica report's
authors describe as its "thorough discourse of racial discrimination" and its
"fascist spirit." If it were reported that influential US Republican or Democrat
lawmakers — let alone a presidential candidate — had dealings with the Ku
Klux Klan or neo-Nazi groups which culminated in legislative amendments, the
consequences there would be dramatic. The Pingquanhui, which uses similar
rhetoric, does not burn crosses, don white robes, or employ memorable
totalitarian imagery and symbols. It wears instead the uniforms of police,
farmers, civil servants and other positions. For many of Taiwan’s Aboriginal
people, however, the political muscle and social influence of the Pingquanhui
has been, if anything, much more direct and just as worrying.

Martin Williams is a doctoral candidate at the University of Technology,
Sydney, researching modern Taiwanese Aboriginal history.

End of article

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