Thu, Aug 27, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Dalai Lama invited to comfort victims

'DISASTER'While the Presidential Office was silent on the issue, KMT lawmakers blasted local chiefs for inviting the Dalai Lama, saying the visit could upset China

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Dalai Lama has accepted an invitation to visit the victims of Typhoon Morakot in southern Taiwan at the end of this month, a Kaohsiung City Government official said yesterday.

Asked about the visit, the Presidential Office told the Taipei Times it had “no comment." Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the Presidential Office needed to gain a better understanding of the matter.

The Tibetan spiritual leader had expressed his desire to visit Taiwan last November, but President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said then that “the timing isn't appropriate.”

Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said late last night that the government would evaluate the situation once the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission has received the official application.

When the Dalai Lama first visited Taiwan in 1997, the administration of then president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) granted him visa-free privilege.

Hsu Li-ming (許立明), director-general of the city government's Information Office, said the Dalai Lama would arrive on Monday at the invitation of seven local government chiefs in the south.

During his six-day stay in southern Taiwan, the Dalai Lama will deliver speeches and visit the areas affected by Typhoon Morakot to comfort the victims of the disaster, Hsu said.

In a press release, the city government said the Dalai Lama was very glad to be able to comfort the victims, adding that he understood the pain of the victims because he once saw his people living in northern India suffer from mudslides.

The spiritual leader said he was very concerned about Morakot's aftermath in Taiwan because Taiwanese had given so much support to Tibetans in exile in India, the city government said.

“The Dalai Lama is not only the spiritual leader of Tibet, but also a religious leader. He also embodies love and peace and has comforted billions of souls over the years,” the city government said. “We believe the Dalai Lama's visit will help the victims get back on their feet.”

The city government's Information Office added that the Dalai Lama's office would apply for a Taiwanese visa, but whether he would be allowed to visit would depend on the central government.

Dawa Tsering, a representative of the Tibetan government in exile, yesterday confirmed that the Dalai Lama had accepted the invitation extended by Taiwanese local government chiefs on Monday. He added that the Dalai Lama might travel to Taiwan as soon as this weekend if it was convenient for Taiwan.

“The Dalai Lama was saddened to see the homes destroyed by mudslides in Taiwan and would love to come to Taiwan if his visit could give the victims some comfort,” Dawa said.

“[When he will visit] depends on when it would be convenient for Taiwan,” he said. “So far, we haven't heard anything from the Taiwanese government.”

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Daniel Hwang (黃義交) said it was “inappropriate” for the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan now, adding that his visit might upset China.

KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) criticized the government chiefs who invited the Dalai Lama, saying that cross-strait relations would be seriously affected by the spiritual leader's visit.

“Don't they think we have enough disasters?” Chiu said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦), on the other hand, said the party welcomed the visit of the Dalai Lama and urged Ma not to bow down to Beijing by refusing the Dalai Lama a visa.

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