Mon, May 15, 2000 - Page 9 News List

Taiwan-Tibet relations areat a crucial turning point

While the Dalai Lama is personally popular in Taiwan, the relations between his government-in-exile and the KMT have never been good. Time for the new government to open a new chapter in relations

By Tsering Namgyal

Perhaps one of the most interesting of the Dalai Lama's post-Nobel events was a tea party held by the Taiwanese government in honor of his being "the first in Chinese history" to win the prestigious peace prize. The modest gathering, in no small way, epitomized the baffling complexity of Sino-Tibetan relations.

This curious relationship has taken on a new dimension as the political grapevine is ripe with speculation on President-elect Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) policy towards the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. Chen has reportedly invited the Tibetan spiritual leader to attend his inaugural celebrations on May 20. Although the Dalai Lama has yet to accept the invitation, Chen should be lauded for his refreshingly far-sighted proposition.

Chen's victory in Taiwan's presidential election offers cause for celebration not only for the Taiwanese, but for all the other victims of Chinese repression for the simple reason that it will strengthen solidarity among the millions of those who have suffered from China's aggression. In fact, one of the most ironic developments in the Asia Pacific region -- the world's fastest growing region -- is the undeterred expansion of China's sphere of influence. Encouraged by the return of Hong Kong and Macau to Chinese rule, Beijing's leaders now cannot wait for Taiwan to unify as well. China's constant intimidation of Taiwan and its relentless crackdown on Tibetans and other minorities in an attempt to heal centuries of what it calls "historical humiliation," coupled with its rising economic clout, has begun casting a pall over its future.

It is little wonder then that the Tibetan government-in-exile was unabashedly pleased at the outcome of Taiwan's presidential election. Chen's triumph, the de facto prime minister of the Tibetan exile government, Sonam Tobgyal, told the Liberty Times, has dealt a "blow" to the Beijing regime. The Tibetan government, he said, will be willing to send representatives to attend the inaugural celebrations.

While the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan would very likely incur China's wrath, the Taiwanese public has enough reasons to encourage the meeting between these two extraordinary personalities. The Dalai Lama is the most powerful voice of compassion in the violence-torn world and Chen is the newly elected president of the one of the world's most flourishing democracies. Although the Taiwanese are much more fortunate than their Tibetan emigre counterparts, the island is no less isolated internationally.

On a more practical level, Taiwan is still recovering from the shock of last year's devastating earthquake -- which killed more than 2000 people and destroyed nearly 100,000 homes. The Dalai Lama's visit would be a healing relief for the earthquake victims in this predominantly Buddhist country.

The reason his first trip to Taiwan in March of 1997 was such a success and has remained so deeply imprinted in the minds of Taiwanese is because it so effectively reinforced the importance of "compassion" -- the Tibetan leader's single most important message. During his week-long stay, the entire island was filled with the message of "love and compassion," thanks to local media's blanket coverage of his whirlwind trip around Taiwan. Only a person of the Dalai Lama's caliber and charisma would have helped inspire such a sea change. With warm-heartedness fast losing the battle against the desire for economic gain, the Dalai Lama has brilliantly succeeded in redefining the basic idea of goodness.

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