CHINA> Taiwan, HK, Macao
Dalai Lama urged to keep politics out during visit
By Wang Linyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-31 07:58

Taiwan officials said Sunday that they hope the Dalai Lama will stay clear of politics during his visit to comfort victims of Typhoon Morakot.

As the Dalai Lama arrived in the island late Sunday, more than 10 Taiwan political organizations denounced the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for inviting him, calling the move "unethical" and "politically motivated".

Seven Taiwan mayors and county chiefs from the DPP last Wednesday invited the Dalai Lama to join religious activities for victims of the typhoon.

Taiwan allowed the Dalai Lama to visit in 1997 and 2001.

Dalai Lama urged to keep politics out during visit

Morakot, the worst typhoon to hit Taiwan in 50 years, has claimed at least 461 lives and left 192 missing and 46 injured, Taiwan's disaster response authorities said.

"We believe the Dalai Lama will have the wisdom to distinguish between religious empathy and political maneuvering," Wu Poh-hsiung, chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), told reporters Sunday.

"Because Taiwan has been badly hit by the typhoon, his visit should help the island instead of adding difficulty to it."

Wu said he sought input from Beijing about the visit, but he did not give details or say whether Beijing responded.

"Communication between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland has remained smooth to ensure continuity of cross-Straits ties," he said.

Taiwan authorities, including Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou, have said that they will not meet the Dalai Lama publicly or privately.

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"Legislative speaker" Wang Jin-pyng said he hoped the Dalai Lama would not make political statements that would "change the tone of what's supposed to be a religious trip".

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Taklha, has denied the visit has any political subtext. "It is a spiritual visit. The purpose is to offer prayers for the victims and to offer comfort and succor to those who have survived," Takhla said on Saturday.

The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council said in a statement last Thursday that it "resolutely opposes" the Taiwan visit "in whatever form and capacity".

About 100 members of the Alliance for the Reunification of China, the Labor Rights Association, the Labor Party and other organizations staged a protest outside the DPP headquarters in Taipei on Saturday.

Among the placards held by protesters, one read: "Strong opposition to the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan." Some people shouted: "'Taiwan Independence' plus 'Tibet Independence', damaging to cross-Straits peace!"

A joint declaration issued by the protesters said the DPP is attempting to take advantage of disaster relief activities and the suffering of residents for its own political interest.

The Dalai Lama has all along been engaged in separatist activities and has been a questionable figure in regard to humanitarian issues, the declaration said.

Analysts, who described the Dalai Lama's visit as political, said that the DPP extended the invitation to the Dalai Lama to put political pressure on Ma.

"They aim to undermine Ma as his polls have slipped recently," said Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher at the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Xinhua and Reuters contributed to the story