- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

TAOYUAN, Taiwan | The Dalai Lama denied any political agenda as he began what he described as a “purely humanitarian” mission on Sunday to comfort victims of Taiwan’s worst storm, trying to calm fears that he would further anger China by verging into politics.

Although the Tibetan spiritual leader has traveled to Taiwan on other occasions, many fear his arrival could hurt the island’s improving relations with rival China — the signature issue in the 15-month-old administration of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. China has protested the visit.

The Dalai Lama, who clasped his hands and smiled as he greeted Buddhist followers and supporters at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei, said his visit would have no political overtone.

“I’ve visited different parts of the world, and I may have a political agenda there … [but] my visit here is purely for humanitarian concerns,” he said.

His arrival at a suburban Taipei train station was greeted by about 50 demonstrators waving Chinese flags and banners supporting unification with China, and shouting, “Go home, Dalai Lama. Don’t come here.” The demonstrators briefly scuffled with police.

“I’m here to oppose the Dalai Lama’s visit,” said protester Feng Tsai-chiao, 62. “I want unification with China, so I don’t like him.”

China has long vilified the Dalai Lama for what it says are his attempts to fight for independence in Tibet. Beijing has said it “resolutely opposes” the Taiwan visit “in whatever form and capacity.”

Wu Poh-hsiung, the chairman of Mr. Ma’s Nationalist Party, said earlier Sunday that his party has sought Beijing’s understanding of the visit, but he did not give details or say whether China responded.

“We believe the Dalai Lama will have the wisdom to distinguish between religious empathy and political maneuvering,” Mr. Wu told reporters.

Mr. Ma has said he approved the Dalai Lama’s visit but will not meet him.

Before his departure, the Dalai Lama said he did not think his visit to Taiwan would cause tension between China and Taiwan.

“Broadly speaking, I don’t think that is so,” he told reporters in India, adding that he has a “very strict nonpolitical nature.”

Taiwan’s opposition invited the Dalai Lama to comfort the victims of Typhoon Morakot, which hit the island in early August and left an estimated 670 dead. During his five-day trip, he is to visit a village hit hard by the storm, lead a mass prayer ritual and address the island’s Buddhist followers.

“There are many Buddhists there. So since they asked me, it is my moral responsibility, to accept, to go there,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said.

China has blamed Taiwan’s opposition, not Mr. Ma, for the invitation, in what appeared to be an effort to keep the improving relations on track. China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and China’s leaders want reunification with the self-governing island.

The invitation put Mr. Ma in a bind - either risk angering China or give further ammunition to his detractors, who were already reveling over widespread perceptions that Mr. Ma’s government had badly botched typhoon relief efforts.

Many members of Mr. Ma’s party saw the invitation as an effort by the rival Democratic Progressive Party to embarrass the president.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More

Click to Hide