Premium Taiwan natives tell Xi Jinping that the island "has never belonged to China"

Women of the Rukai tribe participate in a traditional dance during the annual Harvest Festival in Taromuk

Women of the Rukai tribe participate in a traditional dance during the annual Harvest Festival in Taromuk, Taitung, Taiwan

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Taiwanese people say the island's history did not begin with the arrival of Chiang Kai-shek in 1949.

Responding to Xi Jinping's recent speech - in which the Chinese president warned that he would not rule out military action to force Taiwan's unification with China -, the island's indigenous peoples issued an open letter debunking Beijing's claims.

Written in Chinese, the letter addressed to Xi Jinping asserts that the various indigenous tribes of Taiwan, which have been living on the island for about 6000 years, do not belong to the so-called "Chinese nation" - a clear reference to Beijing's claim that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The natives even say that the "historical conclusion" that Taiwan and China should be a single country is outrageous.

After the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the defeated Kuomintang fled to Taiwan and settled on the island, while the victorious Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong, ruled from Beijing. Since then, Taiwan has ruled itself and holds democratic elections, but Beijing has never relinquished its claims over the island.

The indigenous peoples of Taiwan were caught up in this historical drama. They number about 500,000 people, accounting for nothing more than 2% of the country's population. As in other parts of the planet, Taiwan's indigenous peoples have experienced centuries of exploitation and colonization, and now they call on Xi Jinping to have some historical perspective. "We have witnessed the deeds and words of those who came to this island, including the Spaniards, the Dutch, Zheng Chenggong, the Qing, the Ming, the Japanese, and finally the Republic of China," the letter reads.

As an example, the natives recall the story of Zheng Chenggong - a Chinese general who rebelled against the Ming dynasty and fled to Taiwan in 1661 to establish a kingdom on the island, then under Dutch control. Koxinga, as he was known in the West, is claimed as a national hero in Japan, Taiwan and China, which underscores the island's complex history and identity constructs.

"We are not interested in the monoculturalism, unification and hegemony championed by Mr. Xi," the letter reads. "It is not a path to greatness at all," they say. The natives say they have witnessed the violation of human rights in various parts of China, such as Xinjiang, Tibet and, more recently, Hong Kong, and deride Beijing's 'One Country, Two Systems' model on those grounds.

The authors of the open letter, representing two dozen indigenous tribes, also harbor some grievances against the Taiwanese State, which "has been built in our Motherland," and argue and that they have never given up their "rightful claim to Taiwan"s sovereignty." Nevertheless, they recognize that since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, the government has been making efforts to "look after the ethnic and cultural diversity" of the island.

In fact, Tsai Ing-wen was the first Taiwanese leader to apologize to the country's indigenous people for their suffering over the centuries. Taiwan's indigenous peoples are almost "forced" to live in the island's central mountains, in their own reserves. They repudiate Beijing's promotion of ethnic Han culture.