08/28/2009, 00.00
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Beijing is "resolutely" opposed to Dalai Lama visit to Taiwan

In a muted reaction, China takes issue with the DPP and the Dalai Lama, without threatening sanctions, as it has often done for other countries that have invited the Tibetan spiritual leader. Visit of Ye Xiaowen, director of the Religious Affairs in Beijing, hangs in balance.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – In a predictable response, China has stated it is "resolutely opposed" to the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan, "in whatever form and capacity." But the reaction - in comparison to other occasions- seems to be much milder. In addition it is directed more to the opposition than the current Taiwanese president. A spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office said: "When people from all sectors on the mainland are lending a hand to help Taiwan reconstruct and overcome the typhoon disaster quickly, some DPP members have taken the chance to plot the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan”.  He, according to Beijing, "is not a pure religious figure," but "under the pretext of religion has always engaged in separatist activities."  

At the request of seven mayors from the south, all of them from the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party, in opposition), President Ma Ying-jeou granted permission for a visit by the Dalai Lama to the areas affected by Typhoon Morakot to "console and pray for victims”.    

While risking the ire of Beijing, Ma was forced to endorse the request so as not to increase public resentment against his administration, accused of being slow in organising aid and of being incapable of dealing with emergencies and disasters. Ma had already denied a visa to the Tibetan spiritual leader last December, for fear of undermining relations with China, which have improved increasingly since his election as president in May 2008. On the other hand, Taiwan is different from China: it is a democratic country, where there is freedom of religion and where religion is not subject to government policy.  

Beijing seems to understand the dilemma of Ma and its muted reaction has criticized the DPP - which has autonomous designs for the island of Taiwan – rather than its ally Ma.  When other countries have dared to invite the Dalai Lama, China has blocked dialogues and economic relations with them for lengthy periods. The Dalai Lama will arrive in Taiwan on August 30 and hold prayer meetings and lectures on Buddhism in the south and north of the island, leaving on September 4.  

Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing, had also planned a visit to areas hit by the disaster to participate in the 4 days of Buddhist religious services. No word yet if this program is confirmed.

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