Lawmakers across party lines yesterday voiced concerns over Taiwan’s future exchanges with Mongolia once the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission is merged into the Mainland Affairs Council, fearing that the Mongolian government may suspect that Taiwan considers Mongolia to be part of China.
“Relations between Taiwan and Mongolia have improved greatly in recent years. However, I am concerned about what may happen when the commission is merged with the council, since the relationship between Taiwan and Mongolia should be a diplomatic issue, not a cross-strait issue,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said during a question-and-answer session at the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.
“I think it’s more appropriate to merge the commission into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not the council,” he said.
Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) asked whether the government would have to make contact with Mongolia through the Straits Exchange Foundation after the merger.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) and Chi Kuo-tung (紀國棟) raised similar doubts.
“The relationship between Taiwan and Mongolia is between two countries, and we all agree that Mongolia is an independent country,” Chiang said.
“Wouldn’t the Mongolian government be concerned that we consider it to be part of China, when the government agency in charge of Taiwan-Mongolia exchanges is now a subordinate department of the Mainland Affairs Council?” he asked.
Responding to the lawmakers comments, Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission Minister Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) said she agreed that the situation was not ideal, however, the commission is making arrangements to ensure that things run smoothly following the merger.
“The function of the commission is complicated. We deal with diplomatic, cross-strait and domestic issues,” Lo said.
“Dealing with Mongolia or Mongolian republics within the Russian Federation is a diplomatic issue, exchanges with Mongolian and Tibetan regions in China are cross-strait issues, but serving Mongolian and Tibetan populations in this country is a domestic issue,” she said.
The commission is working with the relevant agencies when handling different issues, Lo said.
For instance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is talking with Mongolia about a visa-waiver program, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is dealing with economic exchanges with Mongolia, while the Ministry of Education may handle student exchange programs, Lo said.
“We have better connections with Mongolian and Tibetan regions, thus we’re serving as a platform to assist different government agencies when dealing with different issues concerning Mongolians and Tibetans,” Lo said.