Taiwan: No City for Old Aborigines

Banai and her husband in front of their home

The first Presidential debate powered by citizen media platform Peopo was held on Feb 24. Two candidates running for President answers 20 questions raised by citizens who use Youtube-like video clips to express their wishes and problems.

The form and the presentation of the debate itself is debatable, however, one interesting scenes from the debate is more ironic than anything else. When the candidates debated each other inside the film studio, many social groups including two aboriginal communities also debated with police forces outside; when Ma Yin-jeou, the candidate of KMT apologized to aborigines for his racial statement and when Frank Chang-ting Hsieh, the candiate of DPP said he also have aboriginal blood in his body, the people of the aboriginal communities protesting outside are facing forced eviction and fear caused by them and their colleagues.

Banai and husband, sitting on the ruins.

Sanying Aboriginal Community in Taipei County, like Sijeou Aboriginal Community and many aboriginal communities spotted at corners of big cities in Taiwan, is a forgotten place where many aborigines live and count on.

However, the sweet homes to these indigenous people is not only vulnerable to typhoons and thunderstorms, but also to bureaucrats'construction blue prints. Inhabitants of Sanying Aboriginal Community are the latest victims whose self-made house have been torn apart on Feb 21 by bulldozers and excavators under the order of Taipei County Government.

An old man crying in his “home”…after the destruction

Taipei Times reported from the Ground Zero:

Pan, who sat on a stool in front of her home in an attempt to block the demolition, was forcibly removed by police. A hydraulic shovel then came in, and Pan's house was demolished in less than five minutes despite Pan and her daughter's tears and pleadings. “Where am I going to stay? I don't qualify for an apartment,” Pan cried.

Bloggers and citizen journalists were at the scene when bulldozers and cranes moved to the land escorted by more than 70 polices. Torrent and other citizen reporters from Coolloud(zh) sent emergent calls for help:


Out of a sudden, the supporting groups for Sanying community had no time to motivate. Only more than a dozen people from Losheng Youth and Sijeou Self-Help came for help. However, under the fierce action of police forces, more than 10 homes of those who haven't sign the “waiver” were reduced to complete shambles at 5 pm.

According to the report, most people didn't have time to rescue their properties inside their houses, so they, most are elders, have to sleep on the bare ground without a shelter,or a pillow with the another cold current coming. Coolloud and other supporting groups had asked readers to donate sleeping bags and tents.

Taipei County Government offered limited national apartments only for people who have a household register or people who sign a waiver to abandon their shelter. The lands and mountains these aborigines once live upon were expropriated by Forestry Bureau and Taiwan Sugar Corporation. They then were forced to leave, drove away from one place to another, and now they are losing their last ground.

Bloggers and citizen journalists have build a blog call “Supporters for Sanying Aboriginal Community” to aggregate all relative reports and informations about Sanying right after the incident. They use online tools like google map and Youtube-like video services to tell netizens where is the Sanying community and the humble wishes these aborigines have in mind–to stay and to stay alive.

This video report above is the latest clip made by the video production group of “Aborigines in the City”. Besides the video part, they wrote about the irony in the case of Sanying.


Many of our modern cities and houses were built by aboriginal immigrant workers, but some of them could not afford the high cost for the lifestyle in modern cities. They can merely survive at the edge of cities. Now, the local government authorities and business units are using “city development” and “security concerns of aborigines” as excuses to treat their homelands which has been established for decades as buildings without licenses in order to look legitimate and reasonable.

Taiwan Indigenous TV (a channel belong to Public Broadcasting Service) also reported the event:

當地信仰中心香雲宮的主持林阿龍表示,即便是已搬遷至隆恩埔的族人還是有很多個人物品留在屋內,而且由於隆恩埔至今還沒有天然氣的供應,所以事實上 還是很多人會回到三鶯橋下的房子開伙和居住。然而勢單力薄三鶯阿美族人在阻擋不住縣府怪手的情況下,只能眼睜睜看著家園被怪手一棟一棟的摧毀、剷平,原本就很殘破的由鐵皮和木板組成的房屋轉瞬成為一片廢墟。

Lin A-long, the abbot of the local religious center-Shan Yun Temple, says that even Amis people who have moved to national apartments in Long En Pu still left a lot personal properties in the houses here, and because of the lack of gas provision in Long En Pu, they still come back to the original houses under the Sanying Bridge to cook and sleep. However, because of their powerless, Amis people could not stop the excavators but only to see their houses, composed by iron sheets and planks, tearing apart into ruins one by one, with their own eyes.

Another journalist Cheng Wei Ren from a community newspaper Lipao interviewed some of the Amis inhabitants in Sanying after the destruction:


The Amis people around the stove told us their wishes for living. It was simple: they don't want a top-down tribe on a high building; they want to see their neighbors and nature every time they open the doors like in the old times that they can exchange greetings and make small talks with each other, and be a part of greater nature; not like now, when corridors are the only things they see outside the door.

Coolloud also interviewed an Amis inhabitant, Banai:

所以我很氣政府說我們侵佔國有地,要拆我們的房子。我記得小時候,政府就是這樣,說什麼要徵用土地,就把我們原住民趕走的。為了政府要用地、為了出外討生活,我們一直在離鄉背井,走到那裡被趕到那裡,現在說我們侵佔國有地,到底是誰在侵佔誰? 每一塊到過的荒地,我們都是自己去開墾,讓它活起來,變成可以生長生命的地方。可是政府寧願在土地上蓋大樓,或是讓它又會變回一片荒地,也不願讓我們在上面生存。從台東到台北,我跟阿伯這輩子靠著自己的力量過日子,即使不算好,但也很有尊嚴。如果被政府「安置」到大樓的套房裡面,沒了這塊土地,變成不能工作的乞丐,那才真的沒尊嚴。

So I am very angry to hear the government say that we invaded and occupied the national land, so that our houses have to be pull down. I remember that the government did the same thing when I was still a kid; they say they need to commandeer the land so they drove us away. Because the government needed the land, we must leave for a living. We are always leaving, we are driven away everywhere we are, and now they say we invaded the national land. But who is really invading? We bring each wasteland we have been to cultivation, to make it a living earth. But the government would rather build a multi-story building on the land or return the land to a wasteland to let us live on it. From Taitung to Taipei, my husband and I work and live on our own–we don't live in good condition though, but we live with dignity. If the government “put” us in the suite of the building, we will soon become landless and then jobless beggars, without dignity.

Superbird analyzes the situation the Amis in Sanying Aboriginal Communities are facing:


The County Government asked them to find a guarantor when they are ready to sign the waiver, and I don't think that has any meaning while each of them is one another's guarantor with such kind of bad economical situation. No one is going to be able to pay one another's debts on rental.


Actually, the problem is not whether the officials from the County Government abide by the law or not, but the complete thoughtless at the very beginning to search for all possible solutions comprehensively. They did not invite officials from each section, people who live there, and social groups(NPOs and social welfare groups) to explore the best way out. They also didn't consider solutions that can be put into practice at the same time, such as giving them work to pay the rental or pushing them to participate in employment counsellings offered by Job Training Department or high schools. The object is to have them a house without rental but at the same time force them to raise their ability on making a living….it seems that the Government's basic missions are only “construction” and maintain the quality of public constructions.

The list of goods and materials supported by other social groups and activists.

Social activists and cyber-activists are working together to spread out the call for help and help rebuild the house again from the ruins. However, the situation does not look optimistic at all since the officials said they will be back and finish “their job” on Feb 28, the Peace Memorial Day. How sarcastic!

Because of the hyper-heated Presidential election, the stories of Sanying are not finding a place to stay on mainstream media either. If the two candidates really care about human rights, job creation, low house price, and cultures of Taiwan's aborigines, they should visit Sanying instead of accusing each other on TV anymore.


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  • dakxin chhara

    This is horrible!!! This is same condtion as we are facing in our City. We nomadic people from Denotified tribe were settled at our place when it was like a forest and now to beutifying the Ahmedabad city Municipal Corporation don’t want us at our forefather’s land. We are evicting more then 10 times in last 8 years.

    We understand your pain to lost ‘Homes’

    Let’s fight till we not get our basic fundamental right to live.

  • How sad!? This is terrible! I am tired of hearing and reading about more and more aboriginal peoples homes, land and lives taken away from them. This has to stop on global level on all continents.

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