Dalai Lama promotes democracy in Taiwan
By Robin Kwong in Hsiao Lin
Published: August 31 2009 11:03 | Last updated: August 31 2009 11:03
The Dalai Lama on Monday urged Taiwan to preserve its democracy even as closer cross-Strait economic ties mean it “should have a very close, unique link with China”.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, whom Beijing accuses of being a separatist, spoke on a rare visit to the island that the Chinese communist party regards as a renegade province.
In an apparent act of protest over the Dalai Lama’s visit, Su Ning, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said on Monday he would not attend a conference in Taipei originally scheduled for Tuesday.
Mr Su will instead arrive next week and the conference has been delayed until then. Mr Su did not give a reason for the abrupt rescheduling, a spokesman for the organiser, the Taipei Foundation of Finance said.
While the Dalai Lama has insisted his trip was for purely humanitarian and religious purposes following a deadly typhoon that killed an estimated 600 people in Taiwan earlier this month, Beijing said the visit “is bound to have a negative influence on the relations between the mainland and Taiwan”.
The Dalai Lama’s five-day visit to pray for victims of typhoon Morakot, which was at the invitation of local officials in the opposition party, comes at an awkward time for Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou. Mr Ma, who was elected on a platform of mending fences with China, risked incurring Beijing’s wrath by allowing the visit. His government has however, come under heavy criticism recently for not doing enough to help typhoon victims.
Mr Ma last December stopped a visit by the Dalai Lama, saying the timing was not right. On Monday, the two visited separate nearby villages in southern Taiwan but did not meet.
The Dalai Lama on Monday travelled to the remote Hsiao Lin village, where several hundred people were buried in a massive mudslide triggered by torrential rains in the wake of the typhoon. After holding a short prayer service on a rise overlooking the devastated village, the Dalai Lama said the scene reminded him of “Buddha’s message of impermanence. It is indeed very very sad”.
He declined to comment on China’s opposition to his visit, but said Taiwan’s most important accomplishment was that “you achieved democracy. That you must preserve”.
While several dozen pro-China demonstrators staged a protest at the Dalai Lama’s arrival on Sunday evening, villagers at Hsiao Lin, many wearing t-shirts printed with an image of their village before the disaster, welcomed him.
Hsueh Shu-chun, who said her whole family had perished in the mudslide except for herself and her husband, said: “Praying for the victims brings relief not only to them but to survivors like me.”
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