09/03/2009, 00.00
TAIWAN – TIBET – CHINA
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Dalai Lama ends visit to Taiwan bringing together Buddhists and Catholics to pray

Yesterday he and Card Shan Kuohsi met about a thousand people to pray for peace. In Taipei the authorities snub the Tibetan leader who was the object of a demonstration by protesters favourable to Taiwan’s annexation to China.
Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Dalai Lama yesterday ended his visit to the areas affected by typhoon Morakot, in southern Taiwan, after he met Card Paul Shan Kuohsi. In Kaohsiung, the hardest-hit area, the two religious leaders took part in a forum on religion and humanity, the Dalai Lama’s last public appearance in this trip.

A crowd of about a thousand people gave the two religious leaders a standing ovation, happy to see that the “two religions can get together” and that “both have the goal of giving peace to people,” said Medusa Kuo, quoted in the Bloomberg news agency.

The Tibetan leader then travelled back to Taipei, where, despite a strong police presence, he was met in front of the hotel by about 200 pro-annexation protesters who accused him of making trouble, changing “Taiwan and Tibet belong to China.”

Mainland China had in fact opposed the trip and cancelled several important meetings with Taiwanese authorities because of that.

The Dalai Lama is not expected to meet Taiwanese authorities. In the past the island’s Kuomintang government, which advocates closer ties with Beijing, had denied him a visa to visit the country, but was unable to do so this time when he asked to come to bring comfort to the people affected by last month’s devastating typhoon.

The natural disaster has left more than 600 people dead and caused widespread material and moral damage. It has also generated a lot of public anger over the government’s slow response. Many ministers and top public servants have resigned over the matter.

None the less, the Dalai Lama's visit did have one unexpected positive effect for the authorities; it diverted public attention from the government's poor performance throughout the disaster.

For his part the Dalai Lama had always insisted that his visit was not political. For this reason he cancelled a press conference planned for last Monday, apparently after receiving a request from the authorities to that effect. But this could not be independently confirmed.

Opinion polls indicate that for most Taiwanese the Dalai Lama’s visit was only religious and meant to bring comfort to disaster victims.

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