The health minister for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, visited Taiwan last week to discuss cooperation on health with his Taiwanese counterparts — including Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達).
Contact between Taiwanese officials and Tibetan representatives is always a sensitive matter given Beijing’s hardline position on Tibet and government-to-government contacts by Taiwanese officials.
The visit also occurred amid efforts by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to improve relations with Beijing.
According to the Tibetan Central Administration (TCA) Web site, Tibetan Health Kalon (minister) Tsering Wangchuk visited Taiwan last week and met top officials at the department, the Bureau of International Cooperation and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as well as hospitals, to garner support for assistance in the healthcare system for the exiled Tibetan community.
Tsering discussed the healthcare system during his meeting with Chiu and International Cooperation Office Director Hsu Min-huei (許明暉) at the DOH building on Wednesday last week, the TCA Web site reported, with pictures showing a group photograph of Tsering and Chiu, and one in which only the pair is seen shaking hands.
Former minister of health Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) was also present at the meeting.
In light of Taiwan’s advancements in public healthcare, Tsering called for support and cooperation from Taiwan in various health education and training programs for the Tibetan community.
Future cooperation on short and long-term exchanges and training for students was also discussed, the TCA said.
At the CDC, Tsering was briefed on the prevention and control of hepatitis B in Taiwan and exchanged views on treatment, public education and control of hepatitis B and C.
Tsering is also reported to have visited Taipei City Hospital and the Hualien Tzu Chi Medical Center, as well as meeting Hualien County Health Bureau officials.
Approached for comment on how the visit came about, Hsu told the Taipei Times yesterday that he did not know whether this was the first time the department had interacted with Tibetan officials, as the department has constant interactions with international academics.
He said such interactions were a means to exchange professional experiences and had nothing to do with politics.
Hsu said the government had not heard any complaint from Beijing over the visit, adding that Tsering visited the department as an academic, which meant that the meeting was not an official meeting between governments.
Moreover, Tsering was not officially invited to Taiwan by the department, but by a civic group of which Lee is a member, Hsu said.
He added that Lee had taken Tsering to the department to have a short conversation with officials on Wednesday last week.
Hsu, as the representative who was charged with greeting the guest at the department, said Tsering’s meeting with Chiu was not on the minister’s schedule that day.
In a version of events that appears to contradict claims by the TCA that the ministers engaged in talks on assistance and cooperation on health matters, Hsu said that Chiu’s intention was only to go meet Lee, as he had heard that the former minister was in the building.
Tsering happened to be in the room and Chiu greeted him there, Hsu said.