Taiwan Has Better Policies for Minorities than Mainland China, but …

by Bobby Reyes

The Saaroa or Hla’alua indigenous people of central southern Taiwan. They live in the two villages of Taoyuan and Kaochung in Taoyuan District, Kaohsiung, and Maya Village in Namasia District, Kaohsiung. | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Part XI of the “United States-Philippines Relations” Series

According to published sources, the Taiwanese government currently recognizes 16 Indigenous groups with a combined population of approximately 580,000, or about 2.5% of Taiwan’s population of 23.5 million. The majority of Taiwan’s population is composed of Chinese of Han descent.

Han Taiwanese, Taiwanese Han, Taiwanese Han Chinese, or Han Chinese are Taiwanese people of full or partial ethnic Han descent. According to the Executive Yuan of Taiwan, they comprise 95-to-97 percent of the Taiwanese population. Taiwan’s population includes Austronesians and other non-Han people, often foreign workers.

On the other hand, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a vast country with a large population — of more than 1.3 billion (spelled with a “b”) human beings. It comprises 56 ethnic groups, 55 minorities, and the dominant Han. The dominant Chinese Han compose some 93% of the population. Hence, ethnic minorities (shaoshu minzu in Chinese) in China, with 7% population, are the non-Han Chinese.

The PRC’s 55 minorities ethnic groups are Achang, Bai, Bonan, Bouyei, Blang, Dai, Daur, Deang, Dong, Dongxiang, Dulong, Ewenki, Gaoshan, Gelao, Hani, Hezhe, Hui, Jing, Jingpo, Jinuo, Kazak, Kirgiz, Korean, Lahu, Li, Lisu, Luoba, Manchu, Maonan, Menba, Miao, Mongolian, Mulao, Naxi, Nu, Oroqen, Ozbek, Pumi, Qiang, Russian, Salar, She, Shui, Tajik, Tatar, Tibetan, Tu, Tujia, Uigur, Wa, Xibe, Yao, Yi, Yugur, Zhuang.

According to population, the major ethnic groups are Zhuang, Uyghur, Hui, Manchu, Miao, Yi, Tujia, Tibetan, Mongol, Dong, Buyei, Yao, Bai, Korean, Hani, Li, Kazakh, and Dai.

The apparent Taiwanese indigenous policy is commendable. The Taiwan government strives to keep and maintain indigenous cultures, guide the cultural industry and incubate professional talent. Moreover, the government is doing its best to restore the traditional names of indigenous tribes, rivers, and mountains in indigenous peoples’ regions by the will of tribal members.

However, some critics accuse the Taiwanese government of doing excellent public relations. Because some critics say that it also practices discrimination or repression. The indigenous peoples of Taiwan have experienced economic and social inequality, including a high unemployment rate and substandard education. Some indigenous groups today continue to be unrecognized by the government. But …

Media reports show that minorities in the PRC, especially the Tibetans and the Uigurs, are discriminated against more (than the Taiwanese do). The PRC’s also abused and maltreated, if not subjected to extra-judicial killings.

This columnist will explain in this series why he is fascinated by Taiwan and the Chinese people. Why? Because his grandfather was a Han from Fujian Province and migrated to the Philippines as a teenager. Curious readers may like to read this story about how this writer’s fascination started in 1961 and why he wants his home province of Sorsogon (Philippines) to become a “Little Taiwan” — from a socioeconomic viewpoint.

By the next episode of this series, this columnist will also talk about a luncheon he hosted in 2003 in Los Angeles, CA, for a leading Filipino presidential aspirant and a retired chief intelligence official at the American Embassy in Manila. One of the items discussed was the close kinship among the peoples of Taiwan, Mainland China, and the Philippines.

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