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Free Wang Guang-Lu and legalize indigenous hunting in Taiwan

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Why Indigenous Hunting is a Human Right: Wang Guang-Lu (Tama Talum), a 56- year old man of the indigenous Bunun tribe of Taiwan, began a 3 and a half year prison sentence on December 15, 2015, as punishment for hunting. His 94-year-old mother had asked him to give her some game meat. After hunting a small deer and a mountain goat for her, he was arrested, tried and convicted. His appeal to the charges of illegally carrying a weapon and illegally hunting protected wildlife was refused by Taiwan’s Supreme Court on October 29, 2015. This is a humanitarian case, since he will no longer be able to take care of his mother, or his children, and is himself in poor health. A long prison sentence causes their family unnecessary hardship. It should be noted that both animal species hunted are considered to be of “least concern” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Hunting, fishing, and gathering have been integral parts of indigenous culture, ritual and identity to the Austronesian peoples of Taiwan for millennia. In most tribes, hunting is an important coming-of-age ritual for young men. For men of all ages, it is an important spiritual practice of communication with the ancestors and mountain spirits. Since the Republic of China came to Taiwan in 1945, they have labeled these subsistence and ritual practices as savage and criminalized them. Taiwan has in recent years tried to position itself as a champion of indigenous rights. The government has promised to take into consideration indigenous cultural practices when dealing with such legal cases, even establishing indigenous hearing chambers for such cases. The state, however, continues to violate the right of indigenous people to hunt.  

International law on indigenous peoples supports the right of indigenous people to their traditions of hunting, fishing and gathering. Article 20 of the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says that “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.” Article 19 of Taiwan’s own Basic Law on Indigenous Peoples states that indigenous persons may hunt, but only “for traditional culture, ritual or self-consumption.” Taiwan’s Basic Law on Indigenous Peoples, passed in 2005, calls for all relevant laws to be revised to permit the implementation of indigenous rights as promised in the law. Yet, Taiwan continues to violate the inherent rights of its indigenous peoples.

As international supporters of indigenous hunting rights in Taiwan, we ask :

1.      That Prosecutor-General Yen Da-Ho file an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of Wang Guang-Lu; 

2.      That President Ma Ying-jeou pardon Wang Guang-Lu;

3.      That the Legislative Yuan immediately revise the relevant laws on weapons and hunting to legalize indigenous hunting;

4.      That the Council on Indigenous Peoples create programs of capacity building so that indigenous communities can effectively define and manage their own hunting and trapping territories;

5.      That the Council of Indigenous Peoples make available a human rights report on the indigenous rights situation, such as those prepared for the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. 

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