Taiwan’s Aborigines urged to officially adopt original names

Taiwan’s Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples is encouraging the members of the island’s twelve tribes to officially adopt their original, non-Sinified names. (Good for the Council of Indigenous Peoples. It’s about time.)

These names will be recorded using the Roman alphabet.

Earlier this evening, however, I heard a television report that many local officials were unaware that this name change was legal, much less encouraged. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve run into more than my share of officials who, because they misunderstand the laws it’s their job to deal with, make life difficult for those who want to get things done. (I”m hoping that renewing my residency will go more smoothly next month than it has in the past.)

Here’s a look at parts of Taiwan’s Full Name Registration Law:

Chapter 1 Local Legislation Authority

Section 1 Republic of China (ROC) nationals may have only one name, and said full name should be the official name stated in the census records.

So why must Aborigines who file to officially use their original, non-Sinified names have not only their names in romanization but also in Chinese characters (and thus are likely Sinified and therefore different than their original name)?

Taiwan indigenous peoples should be registered under their customary full names. Indigenous peoples registered under a Han’s full name should apply for restitution of traditional full name; those who have restituted their traditional full name should apply for the restitution of their Chinese full name; however an individual is entitled to a single restitution application.

Huh? (It’s late, so I’m not going to bother checking the Mandarin-language original to see if that’s any clearer.)

Section 2 The full name registered in the census record should be written in words found in the Ministry of Education Mandarin dictionary or Tzu-Yuan (origin of Chinese phrase or expression), Tzu-Hai (Chinese words collection), Kanghsi and other general dictionary; however, an exemption to paragraph 1 is the registered traditional full name of indigenous peoples which should be written using the Romanization system.
Full names that are not written with words found in any of the aforementioned general dictionaries shall not be registered.

That’s normal.

The Ministry of the Interior is renewing national ID cards from January 1 to December 31, 2006. This hadn’t been done in years.

Lin Chiang-yi, a council official and an Amis tribe member, said his council was asking the Ministry of the Interior to set up a “one-stop window” in counties with large aboriginal populations where people could officially change their Chinese name back to their aboriginal name.

Although a 1995 act allowed aboriginals to substitute their Chinese name with an aboriginal one, only 1,000 aboriginals have adopted their own name so far, Lin continued.

The official said his council was working to persuade several aboriginal communities to make the change en masse, with the purpose of increasing the number of aboriginals who go by their aboriginal name to 10,000.

With a population of 426,000 representing 12 different tribes, aboriginals account for nearly 2 percent of the country’s population.

source: Aboriginals encouraged to adopt indigenous names, CNA, January 31, 2006

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