Tue, Sep 01, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Dalai Lama tours areas hit hard by Typhoon Morakot

By Loa Iok-sin and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

People wearing T-shirts with a picture of the Dalai Lama on the back wait for the arrival of the Tibetan spiritual leader at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Sunday evening.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Dalai Lama visited Siaolin Village (小林) in Jiasian Township (甲仙), Kaohsiung County, yesterday on the first full day of his five-day trip, where he hugged survivors of Typhoon Morakot and prayed for its victims.

“Mom, Dad, the Dalai Lama has come to pray for you, please come up quickly,” Chen Lan-yin (陳蘭因), a Siaolin survivor, said while the Dalai Lama held a ritual to bring peace to the departed at the site where the village once stood.

More than 400 people were buried alive when massive landslides triggered by torrential rain brought by Morakot flattened the village on Aug. 9.

“As a Buddhist, what I can do is pray for them [the storm victims], wishing them that in their next life, they can still be human and live a happier life,” the Dalai Lama said after finishing the ritual.

He told survivors not to lose confidence and to continue living.

One Siaolin villager — who lost six family members in the disaster — kneeled in front of the Dalai Lama with his two friends and asked for a blessing. The Tibetan spiritual leader hugged them.

“Although we don’t understand what the Dalai Lama was saying, we do feel better now in our mind,” another villager said.

Before leaving Siaolin, the Dalai Lama took questions from reporters.

Asked about Beijing’s reaction to the visit, he said that the purpose of his trip was purely religious and that it should not be a problem.

Asked if he would meet President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the Dalai Lama said that no political agenda was planned on his side, including meeting Ma, as he didn’t want to “create inconveniences [for] anybody.”

Asked to comment on protests against his visit, the Dalai Lama said it was a good thing.

“I am dedicated to promotion of democracy — that’s their freedom of expression,” he said. “I love it.”

After visiting Siaolin, the Dalai Lama went to Jiadong Township (佳冬) in Pingtung County — which was flooded by Morakot — to visit victims at a local temple.

More than half a month after the floodwater receded, streets in ­Jiadong are still filled with putrid mud.

Although the Dalai Lama said that his visit is purely religious and non-political, Taiwanese Friends of Tibet chairwoman Chow Mei-li (周美里) said in a press conference yesterday that the government was bowing to pressure from Beijing, adding that, in her opinion, this was the real reason behind last-minute changes to the Dalai Lama’s itinerary.

The Dalai Lama had been scheduled to hold a press conference yesterday morning, to deliver a public speech at the Kaohsiung Arena this afternoon and another public speech at the Taoyuan County Stadium tomorrow.

The press conference and the Taoyuan speech have been canceled, while the venue for the lecture in Kaohsiung was moved from the Kaohsiung Arena — which holds up to 15,000 people — to a smaller venue at his hotel that has a capacity of 700 people.

Chairman of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama — the representative office of the exiled government — Dawa Tsering said the press conference was canceled because Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) strongly suggested that the Dalai Lama spend more time visiting disaster areas.

The cancelation of the public event in Taoyuan, he said, was the result of problems in booking the venue. Dawa said the speech in Kaohsiung was moved to a smaller venue to cut down on the number of police officers needed to ensure security.

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