Tue, Jun 23, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Agency denies trying to interfere with the TTEF

ACCUSATIONS The Taiwan-Tibet Exchange Foundation said the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission had halted its work for fear of jeopardizing ties with China

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (MTAC) yesterday denied media speculation that it was trying to suspend the operations of the Taiwan-Tibet Exchange Foundation (TTEF).

The foundation was created in 2002 under the Democratic Progressive Party administration with more than 70 percent of its funding coming from the government. The organization’s main task is to provide humanitarian assistance to exiled Tibetan communities and facilitate contact between the Taiwanese government and the Tibetan government in exile.

The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported on Sunday and yesterday that TTEF operations have been suspended since the ­Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government took office last year.

TTEF vice-chairwoman Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) was quoted as saying that the commission “left the TTEF to rot” after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in September that the timing was not appropriate for Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan.

Foundation board member Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌) was quoted as saying that the government had “prompted” the foundation to cease its functions out of fear that contacts between Taiwan and the exiled Tibetan government might upset China.

The MTAC denied that this was the case.

“The MTAC notified the TTEF in November last year that the government would like to appoint new board members representing various government agencies such as the Presidential Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Mainland Affairs Council, the Council of Agriculture, the Department of Health and the MTAC,” the MTAC said in a press release yesterday.

“However, the TTEF secretariat continued to deliver board meeting invitations to board members appointed by the previous administration, which made it impossible for the newly appointed board members representing the government to attend the meetings,” it said.

As a result, a board meeting to elect new members never took place and the lack of legitimate board members led to the suspension of the TTEF’s operations, the MTAC said.

“While it’s an established practice for the deputy secretary-­general of the Presidential Office to serve as the TTEF ­secretary-­general, the [current] TTEF ­secretary-­general did not hand over office after the change of government,” it said.

TTEF secretary-general Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday rebutted the commission’s accusation and accused it of technically blocking the foundation’s operations.

“It’s illegal for the government to just ‘appoint’ new board members — they have to be elected by the board of directors,” Lin told the Taipei Times by telephone. “According to proper legal procedure, the new board of directors is only legitimate if the new members are elected by the outgoing board.”

“But the MTAC is not allowing that to happen — it’s using its influence to tell board members affiliated with government organizations not to attend meetings,” he added. “I think the MTAC is trying to suspend TTEF operations until the government’s attitude toward the Tibetan government in-exile becomes clear.”

Lin said many of the TTEF’s ongoing humanitarian aid projects have been halted, “so we do hope the MTAC will allow the TTEF board to complete the required procedures to resume operations.”

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