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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Farewell to the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission

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Under the current Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC, still Taiwan’s official name), approved in Nanking in 1947, Tibet and Mongolia as a whole are still considered regions of the ROC. In fact, Outer Mongolia separated from China in late 1911 and Inner Mongolia became part of Mao Tse-tung´s Communist People’s Republic in 1949.

As a consequence, in September 15th, 2017, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cabinet under female President Tsai Ying-wen formally disbanded the ministry-level Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (MTAC) after almost 90 years of existence by submitting a phase-out bill.

Instead, the Mongolian and Tibetan Cultural Center was inaugurated on the MTAC’s old premises the same day. Up to this day it promotes both cultures, supervising foundations, organizing exhibitions, preserving historical documents and artifacts as well as training talent in the field.

Some of its responsibilities were transferred to the new Department of Hong Kong, Macao, Mongolia and Tibet at the Mainland Affairs Council’s (MAC), the government agency that deals with Peking, but to which merely about 10% of the staff was reassigned.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has been handling relations and exchanges with Mongolia since in September 2002 both countries opened representative offices in each other’s capital.

Established on February 1st, 1929, its long history mirrored many of the dramatic changes in the Middle Kingdom’s political landscape. The Qing Dynasty, founded in 1636 and ruling all of China from 1644 to 1911, first named it the Mongolian Bureau. Tibetan Affairs were added after the ROC was proclaimed in January 1912.

Following the Nationalists’ defeat in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the institution was relocated to Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek. Until the early 1990s, the MTAC disseminated propaganda among the Tibetan exile community and bankrolled groups to create discord within their homeland, occupied by the Red Mandarins since 1951.

From 1971 to 1978, the MTAC even recruited ethnic Tibetan children from India and Nepal to study in Taiwan, with the expectation that they would be of value for a Nationalist government that had successfully reclaimed the Chinese mainland from the “Communist bandits”.

The commission began gradually losing its relevance after Taiwan’s first freely elected President Lee Teng-hui (1923-1930) invited Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to the country in 1997.

Serious discussions about abolishing it began under his DPP successor Chen Shui-bian, who served between 2000 and 2008, as Taiwanese independentists always struggled with the concept of having to administer Mongolia and Tibet, both of which exist outside the jurisdiction of Taiwan.

Still, in 2010 conservative President Ma Ying-jeou also considered an abolishment of the MTAC, though the closure didn’t materialize mainly due to arguments over whether Tibet and Mongolia should be considered foreign or mainland areas.

On June 20th, 2016, only one month after the DPP returned to power, it was deemed “no longer necessary” to keep the obsolete MTAC alive. Its disappearance 15 months later marks the end of an era and is another nail in the coffin of the ROC, which has survived only in Formosa for the last seven decades.

P.D.: The hundreds of Mongolians and Tibetans living in Taiwan on a permanent basis who received services from the MTAC are now being attended by its various successors.

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