Posted by: mel | January 14, 2010

Activists protest alleged racism

NO LAUGHING MATTER: Immigrant rights activists demonstrated outside the NIA after a junior high school teacher allegedly told a student that she was a ‘barbarian’

Taipei Times | By Loa Iok-sin, STAFF REPORTER | 14 January 2010 p.2

Immigrant rights advocacy groups yesterday staged a demonstration outside the National Immigration Agency (NIA), calling on the agency to sanction a junior high school teacher for allegedly making a racist remark against a student whose mother is Indonesian.

Activists protest outside the National Immigration Agency in Taipei yesterday, demanding disciplinary measures against a junior high school teacher. PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES

A junior high school student in Kaohsiung County’s Linyuan Township (林園) — born to a Taiwanese father and an Indonesian mother — said the teacher, Hung Yu-wen (洪裕文), last month asked if she was a “barbarian” and told her to go back to Indonesia and be a “savage” like her mother after Hung saw the student tear up a test paper.

The student said she tore up the paper because she was upset after being scolded by Hung. She said before the latest incident, she had already been subjected to Hung’s abusive remarks three times.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday reported that Hung had admitted to making several inappropriate remarks to the student, but added that he never intended to humiliate the student and his comments were meant as a joke.

Neither the student nor the immigrants rights advocates found his “jokes” funny.

“If the student were my own daughter, I would fight with my own life to defend her,” Hong Man-chi (洪滿枝), a member of the TransAsia Sisters Association Taiwan (TASAT), said during the demonstration.

Now a naturalized Taiwanese citizen, the Vietnamese-born Hong came to Taiwan more than 10 years ago after marrying a Taiwanese man.

“It’s not enough to punish the teacher with an NT$30,000 [fine] or to give him demerits,” Hong said. “He should be fired because he is not suitable to be a teacher.”

Hong was referring to a clause in the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) which states that any person who discriminates against another on the basis of their nationality, ethnicity, skin color, social class or place of birth could be fined a maximum of NT$30,000.

TASAT executive secretary Yadrung Chiou (邱雅青), who originates from Thailand, said as an immigrant spouse, she felt “very uncomfortable to hear such a remark.”

“This is a humiliation, not only for the student and her Indonesian mother, but for all immigrants and their children,” she said.

Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛), the secretary-general of the Awakening Foundation, said the case was only the tip of the iceberg.

“Taiwanese in general are not ready to embrace ethnic diversity and school teachers are not being trained to teach students to respect diversity,” she said.

Tseng said while immigration issues are discussed in textbooks, “immigrants are often portrayed as the source of ‘social problems.’”

“The textbooks don’t teach students how to appreciate the different cultures brought by immigrants or their contributions to society,” she said.

Accepting a petition from the demonstrators, NIA Acting Deputy Director-General Hu Ching-fu (胡景富) said the commission would launch a probe into the incident, with the results to be announced within three months.

Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳) said the commission’s decision would serve as a test as to whether the government is serious about respecting diversity and promoting human rights.

More than 26,000 out of a total of 420,000 new immigrants in Taiwan are immigrant spouses from Indonesia, said Wu Chia-chen (吳佳臻), director of TASAT’s North Taiwan Office.

If the government does not put a stop to such discriminatory remarks and punish those responsible, it could have an adverse impact on ethnic equality, she said.

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