Taiwan High Court Acquits Smangus in Beech Tree Incident

                    Smangus Tribal Council Secretary
                                2010.02.09

The Taiwan High Court has officially acquitted three Smangus men who had been convicted of stealing government property when they removed a fallen Beech tree after a storm. This news not only represents a victory for the Smangus people, but it also has implications for the self-governance of all indigenous people in Taiwan. Such a ruling also serves to indicate that the Taiwan Supreme Court takes very seriously the issue of basic rights for indigenous people.

We are thankful for all the support we have received in relation to the Smangus Beech Tree Incident. Over the last four years, many have helped us in the fight for equality and freedom. This ruling brings us joy and at the same time gives us confidence and assurance that we can continue to move forward.

Additionally, in 2009 President Ma's administration signed both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which declare the importance of every people's right to self-determination and that all nationalities are free to decide their own political status and freely pursue their own economic, social, and cultural development. Similarly, article 4 of Taiwan's Aboriginal Basic Law states that "The government shall in accordance with the wishes of Indigenous Peoples ensure the equal status and self-development of aboriginals, and implement indigenous autonomy," and we look forward to the government implementing this law for every indigenous tribe in Taiwan.

Thank you to attorney Thomas Jhan for your assistance and to everyone else who has been concerned about the Smangus Beech Tree Incident. Based on the acquittal in this case, we look forward to justice, peace and freedom being implemented throughout indigenous society.

With this Supreme Court ruling the judiciary has returned innocence to the Smangus people as well as addressed indigenous rights to natural resources. The Supreme Court has also affirmed that the handling of indigenous issues, whether judicial or legislative, should be carefully considered based on the ideal of multiculturalism, instead of applying Han Chinese cultural norms to such situations. By upholding the will of the Supreme Court and ruling in favor of the indigenous defendants, the Taiwan High Court has written a new page in judicial and cultural history.

Finally, we call on the Ma administration to deliver true indigenous political autonomy, and immediately review the Indigenous Autonomy Act.