TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taipei’s high court ruled in favor of an Atayal man whose request to have his native language name on his ID card was rejected by New Taipei City.
In 2021 a New Taipei household registration office rejected Bawtu Payen’s (寶杜巴燕) application to have the Chinese characters representing his name changed to English letters that are used to represent his native language, per CNA. Payen’s name represented in Chinese is romanized as Pao Tu-pa-yen in Wade Giles, or Bǎo Dù Bā Yàn in pinyin.
The Taipei court ruled in favor of his right to register his name in his native language on Thursday (Nov. 9), which Payen told CNA reflected the name’s true meaning. Payen said the name was given to him by his grandmother, and means to be “as hard working and down to earth as one’s ancestors.”
Taking each character separately, his Chinese name roughly translates to “treasure (寶),” a type of plant (杜), hope, something affixed, or a measure word (巴), and “sparrow” (燕). The characters together are nonsensical and are used to approximate the pronunciation of his Indigenous name — but Payen said they have nothing to do with the original meaning.
Payen said Indigenous people’s names are an important part of their identity, and that they have the right to recognition. He said it is important to use names passed down by ancestors to maintain group identity.
Hailing from Wufeng Township in Hsinchu, Payen said before he completed his compulsory military service, he used the Chinese name Chen Yun-fan (陳雲帆). He said he and four family members changed their names to reflect their tribal names during an Indigenous social movement that highlighted the issue in the 1980s.
Payen thanked his lawyers and all those who have participated in campaigning efforts to create separate name categories for different ethnicities. He said that winning the case is gratifying, as it means all Indigenous people will be able to register their “beautiful tribal names” on ID documents going forward.
According to government statistics, 167 people reverted to their Indigenous names this year. Just under 1,800 people have reverted to their Indigenous names since 2013.