Taiwan’s Indigenous Oppose Trade Deal With China

The indigenous people used the smoke signal to warn their people and the whole society. Photo from coolloud.org. CC: NC.

The indigenous people used the smoke signal to warn their people and all of society against the trade agreement with China. Photo from coolloud.org. CC:NC.

Those occupying Taiwan's legislature over the controversial Cross-Strait Service and Trade Agreement (CSSTA) between the island and China fear that allowing mainland capital to flow unrestricted into Taiwan will threaten Taiwanese culture, freedom of expression and national security.

The indigenous people of Taiwan worry in particular that the trade agreement will lead to the destruction of their ancestral land and the suppression of their languages, among other consequences, and members have participated in the protests. 

A platform for discussing indigenous people-related issues, Pure-taiwan.info, explained [zh] how the agreement will affect the life of the indigenous people in Taiwan. One of the specific concerns involves the tourism sector. Given the exodus of young people from indigenous areas, leaving an aging population behind, the indigenous people will be forced to depend on tourism for their economy to survive.

But with the agreement opening the door to “China-style tourism”, mainland businesses will monopolize the sector for maximum profit, according to the site. Meanwhile, the indigenous will be left with the costs of conserving the environment and putting on displays of tradition and culture. 


When Chinese corporations enter Taiwan in the tourist sector, they need the land to build hotels and other buildings for touristic services. […] This will bring serious threats to our ancestors’ land.

The dominance of Mandarin that the agreement represents is also worrying, according to the platform:


Once the CSSTA is passed, Mandarin will be more dominant than it is today. Language is not only a tool for communication. Language is a symbol of the social-economic status and the culture hegemony. […] The domination of Mandarin and the dominant culture created by this language will threaten our identity built on our tradition and culture. In addition, this dominant power will also threaten our effort to maintain the legacy of the Austronesian languages in Taiwan.

Coolloud.org, an independent online media focusing on civil society news, also reported a statement [zh] from one of the protesting indigenous people about the change Chinese tourists have brought to the tourism industry in Taiwan:


The current Magistrate of Hualien County, Fu Kung-Chi, has already started to prepare a budget for us to hold our ceremonies to serve tourists.

The Indigenous Peoples Action Coalition of Taiwan (IPACT) criticized [zh] that the Council of Indigenous Peoples and the legislators representing the indigenous people did not pay enough attention to the agreement's possible impact on the indigenous people’ rights:

23日,一群旅北原住民學子出自對原住民族當代議題之關心,自主籌辦反黑服貿青年論壇並召開記者會,呼籲原民會及原住民籍立委應正視服貿對台灣原住民族之影響。然而,在25日原民會回應之新聞稿中,非但絲毫未見原民會針對「服貿是否影響原住民權利」所提出的政策評估或者相關研究說明,卻以單一偏頗的數據企圖掩飾服貿對台灣原住民族工作權的劇烈影響。[…] 原住民族人與青年參與服貿協議的討論,從去年10月辦了第一場公聽會,原策會即已表達疑慮,要求原民會與立委應充分說明溝通,迄今仍未得到善意回應,卻反而對有疑慮者指為散布謠言,甚至誣指為「不法行動」。原民會作為原住民族之代表機關,自當以原住民族之主體性,在政策之程序制訂與實質內容,代表全體原住民捍衛權益。

The Institute for Aboriginal Policy had expressed their concerns since last October when some indigenous people attended a public hearing. Although the Institute for Aboriginal Policy requested that the Council of Indigenous Peoples and the legislators representing the indigenous people to explain and communicate with the indigenous people, they did not give us any positive response yet. Moreover, they accused those who were concerned of spreading rumors or even breaking the law. The Council of Indigenous Peoples is an official institute to represent the indigenous people, so they should represent us and protect our rights and integrity when they make policies and related measures.

To evoke more discussion among indigenous peoples, several young Amis, the largest indigenous group in Taiwan, made a video introducing the CSSTA and explaining the protest to their friends and family.

Ayal Komod, an Amis musician and actor, also appealed to indigenous people for solidarity:

場內學生爭取的,和我們未來所要面對的問題息息相關 […] 我們自己更要強化團結,凝聚力量,假如我們力量不夠,又怎能追求未來,為族人服務呢?

The demand made by the students who occupied the Legislative Yuan is closely related to our future. […] We need to strengthen our bond so that we can generate our power together. If we do not have enough power, how can we pursue a better future and provide for our people?


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