A Contentious Court Ruling Deals a Setback to Indigenous Rights in Taiwan

A Contentious Court Ruling Deals a Setback to Indigenous Rights in Taiwan
Representatives of Taiwan’s Indigenous groups listen as President Tsai Ing-wen delivers an apology on behalf of the government, Taipei, Taiwan, Aug. 1, 2016 (flickr photo by the Office of the President of Taiwan).

One day in July 2013, Tama Talum, an Indigenous Bunun man living in a mountainous area of southeastern Taiwan, set off to hunt game at the request of his 92-year-old mother, who was hungry for the traditional meat of her youth. The expedition was a success, and Tama was able to kill one Formosan serow—a kind of mountain goat—and one Reeves’ muntjac, a small deer. However, on his way home, he was arrested and charged with violating the laws of the Republic of China, or ROC, the formal name for the state that governs Taiwan.

In 2015, Tama was convicted of violating the Controlling Guns, Knives and Ammunition Act and the Wildlife Conservation Act, and was initially sentenced to prison for 3.5 years. Though he lost his appeal, the prison term was suspended following a domestic and international outcry. This year, Tama’s case reached Taiwan’s highest court, which handed down its verdict on May 7.

Indigenous rights activists had hoped for a historic, landmark ruling like Australia’s Mabo decision of 1992 or Canada’s Delgamuukw case of 1997, both of which confirmed the legitimacy of Indigenous land title. Instead, the justices of Taiwan’s Constitutional Court upheld the primacy and constitutionality of ROC laws that forbid hunting, albeit with limited exemptions for Indigenous people as a “cultural right.” They ruled that the legal exemptions permitting Indigenous hunting for cultural and subsistence reasons do not justify taking protected species.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.