The recent Pingpu struggle for the recognition has met with resistance from the Taiwan administration (including the Council of Indigenous Peoples [CIP]) and the case was submitted to the United Nation Human Rights Commission in 2010 though without follow-up. In July 2011, Taipei High Administrative Court turned down a lawsuit against the Council of Indigenous People over its refusal to officially recognize Pingpu groups. The Pingpu’s repeated attempt to gain recognition from the state deserves more attention in light of the waves of emerging newly recognized group in the past decade (Thao, Truku, Kavalan, Sakizaya and Sediq). Why certain claims to indigeneity succeed while others fail?
On the other hand, the politics of recognition in Sabah has a different twist. The native courts in Sabah also face repeated requests to certify Native titles and status in recent years. According to Sabah constitution, anyone who can trace to native ancestors is entitled to the legal status. In the case of Chinese and native mix-marriage, their offspring are conferred the status of “Sino-Native” who also enjoy the native privileges, especially Native Titles Land. Due to the false claims of some Chinese merchants who acquired the Sino-Native status illegally in order to purchase Native Title land, the court stopped issuing the certificates. This in turn causes problems for Sino-Natives who do not have a native name and need to provide certification in order to purchase Native Title land. The term “Sino-Native” has been also challenged lately due to the non-specific “native” group in the title which made tracing ancestry difficult.
This paper examines the similarities and differences on the legal issues of indigenous recognition in Taiwan and Sabah. What are the criterion involved here and what other factors came into play on the ground? In the case of Pingpu in Taiwan, their native ancestry was not in doubt but administrative criterion prevented them from gaining recognition to this date. Similar to the term “Sino-Native”, Pingpu is a term of colonial creation which does not specify individual ethnic group but refers to a category of native groups who established certain favorable relationship with the Empire. By examining the historical contexts on how the systems came about, this paper will also illuminate the possible implications for the two cases at hand.