Delegation eases strain over Dalai visit

Updated: 2009-09-08 07:46

(HK Edition)

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Delegation eases strain over Dalai visit

TAIPEI: People's Bank of China (PBC) Deputy Governor Su Ning arrived in Taiwan yesterday as the head of a 22-member delegation, that will attend a finance seminar in Taipei. The attendance of the delegation is seen by observers as indicating that Beijing is making efforts to maintain cross-Straits relations despite the Dalai Lama's controversial visit last week.

The delegation will attend a seminar on the development of bill financing markets on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

Upon Su's arrival yesterday at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, he said the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan was "regrettable" because it had "adversely affected peace in the Straits". Nonetheless, Su said, his presence in Taipei shows that Beijing was still willing to make every effort to maintain the positive momentum of cross-Straits relations.

The mainland also hopes that Taiwan will take steps to eradicate negative influences and jointly protect cross-Straits accord, the banking official said.

In addition to attending the seminar, Su will also visit financial and banking institutions and travel to central and southern Taiwan during his stay. His delegation is composed of senior officials in charge of bills financing at major mainland banks.

The postponement of the delegation's arrival has stirred up speculation that it was a sign of Beijing's anger toward the presence of the Dalai Lama in Taiwan.

Sunny Chou, the chairman of Taipei Foundation of Finance, told AFP that Beijing has refrained from giving specific reasons for the delay.

"We got a call from them saying they could not attend. They said they had to postpone the visit due to technical reasons and would not provide details. But I think you and I know why," said Chou.

Beijing had warned that the Dalai Lama's visit was "bound to have a negative influence on the relations between the mainland and Taiwan".

Ye Xiaowen, director of the mainland's State Administration of Religious Affairs, who is visiting Taiwan, was quoted by local media as asking, "Why invite a controversial lama who wears saffron robes and Gucci shoes to Taiwan to put on a show?"

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party invited the Dalai Lama to visit and comfort victims of the typhoon, which killed more than 500 people. Ma later approved the visit but said he would not meet the Dalai Lama.

Chen Shu-rong, spokeswoman for Taiwan's ruling party Kuomintang, earlier said that Beijing has cancelled or postponed at least two planned visits to Taiwan.

The Dalai's visit, ostensibly aimed at comforting victims of last month's deadly typhoon, has posed the most serious challenge to relations between Taiwan and the mainland since Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou took office 15 months ago, the party said.

Deputy Secretary General Chang Rong-kung of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) said officials sent an emissary to the mainland last week to try to explain why Ma approved the visit.

"Beijing's attitude toward this is important to us, so we tried to explain Taiwan's thinking to them," Chang said.

China Daily/CNA

(HK Edition 09/08/2009 page2)