TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Savungaz Valincinan, a member of the Indigenous group "Call me by my real name," on Wednesday (May 12) pointed out the double standard in allowing people to legally change their names for a sushi restaurant marketing campaign but forbidding native people from using their given names.
The group held a press conference outside the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) on Wednesday and pointed out that some group members had gone to various household registration offices to apply to use only their traditional names as their legal ones, but their cases were rejected. As a result, Valincinan said she filed a petition in the (MOI), according to a group Facebook post.
According to current regulations under the "Name Act," when Indigenous people choose to restore their traditional names on their national ID, they can either use the Romanized version of their given name displayed next to their Chinese name, just the Chinese transliteration of their given name, or the Chinese transliteration of their traditional name alongside the Romanized version. Indigenous people are not allowed to use solely the romanized version of their given name.
Savungaz said that during the “salmon craze,” many people changed their legal names to fish-related ones, which shocked the Indigenous community. "If ‘salmon’ can be used, why can't native names be allowed?" she asked.
Savungaz also mentioned that the government's forcing of the Indigenous community to use Chinese characters leaves them with an unsuitable and incorrect way to transcribe their traditional names.
For example, she stated that her Chinese transliterated name is Sa Feng-An (撒丰安). Every time she applies for official documents or makes a restaurant reservation, she will be asked "Is your surname ‘Sa’?" or "Are you Miss Sa?" This has caused a lot of trouble in her life, Savungaz said.
Bawtu Payen, another member of “Call me by my real name” mentioned that after President Tsai Ing-wen took office, she passed the Indigenous Languages Development Act and listed Indigenous languages as national languages. He said that he hoped the MOI can accept the Indigenous community using their Romanized given names alone as their legal monikers.
Another group member, Tanax Yago, added that Chinese transliterations make some names difficult to pronounce. Furthermore, it makes you think, " Is this really our own name? Or is it imposed under a mainstream culture that everyone understands?" Yago said.
Ciwang Teyra, who is also of the group, pointed out that the government has said it will take into account the convenience of various agencies regarding the name issue and that it hopes Chinese names will be tied together with Indigenous ones. This reflects an attitude of superiority in Chinese culture, Teyra said, adding, "This is racism, and this is racial discrimination." Taiwan advocates multiculturalism, but when it comes to these easy-to-handle issues, we never receive a direct response from the government, she said.