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Sun, Jan 07, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan, Tibet in diplomatic tussle

ON THE RISE Taiwan and Tibet are in a diplomatic quagmire after reports said a Taiwan medical team narrowly escaped being attacked by Tibetan agents

By Liu Shao-hua  /  STAFF REPORTER

The longstanding tension between Taiwan and the Tibetan government-in-exile is in danger of being exacerbated by the publication in Taiwan on Friday of news stories concerning Taiwan's recent mission to provide medical aid to Tibetan refugees and Nepalese in Nepal.

The stories said that Taiwan's medical team narrowly missed being attacked by agents of the Tibetan government -in-exile. Quoting the organizer of the medical team, Ho Tung-hao (何東皓), the news said that the team was subjected to intimidation instigated by the Office of Tibet in Nepal.

"I feel resigned to the news," said Hsu Cheng-kuang (徐正光), Chairman of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission. Hsu has been trying to express respect for the Tibetan government-in-exile and support for human rights in Tibet, in a bid to steer the commission's focus away from its time-honored position as mouthpiece for the view that Tibet is part of the Republic of China.

But the scholar-turned official said that his efforts had been sabotaged by the media's biased reports.

The medical team comprised 16 medical professionals, organizers and officials, and was mainly funded by the MTAC. After the team arrived in Nepal, statements were released condemning the MTAC, saying it "is going to destroy the unity of the Tibetan community."

The MTAC was the target of protests, which contributed to the medical team's isolation during a period of riots and tension in Nepal. "But the stories were exaggerated. The Tibetan government-in-exile was unfriendly, but they were not involved in efforts to attack us," said an MTAC official who declined to be named.

"Opposition to the MTAC on the part of the Tibetan government-in-exile is not new," the official added.

The MTAC is a vestige of an era when the KMT government maintained that it was the ruler of China, including Tibet, which has been calling for independence.

"We [the Tibetan government] have never recognized the MTAC," said Tenzin Phuntsok Atisha, managing director of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (達賴喇嘛西藏宗教基金會), the representative of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Taiwan.

The Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama was established in Taiwan in 1997 to serve the estimated 500,000 practicing followers of Tibetan Buddhism in the country.

The Tibetan government-in-exile considers the existence of the MTAC an insult to Tibetans and has passed a decree banning Tibetans from communicating with the MTAC, according to Atisha.

"But we [exiled Tibetan government] never planned to attack the medical team."

Atisha said he had received Ho's protest letter complaining both that the exiled Tibetan government had distributed statements condemning the medical team and that a hotel run by the Tibetan government had refused to provide accommodation for the group as it sought refuge while rioting flared in Kathmandu.

"The news has damaged both sides and done nothing for future cooperation," said Liu Chi-chun (劉啟群), the head of Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps (台灣路竹會) which once provided medical aid to Tibetans at Dharamsala in India where the exiled Tibetan government is based.

Any future aid should be better assessed beforehand, medically, politically and socially, lest it raise problems of this sort, Liu said.

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