Sat, Sep 05, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Supporters bid farewell to Dalai Lama

HOPE SURVIVES Asked whether he thought he would ever be able to return to his Himalayan homeland, the Dalai Lama said: ‘We are always ready to go back to Tibet’

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH AGENCIES

Exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama waves before departing for New Delhi at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday.

PHOTO: SAM YEH, AFP

The Dalai Lama left Taiwan yesterday after a five-day religious mission.

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader left from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, seen off by more than 100 supporters and monks shouting “Long live the Dalai Lama.”

The Dalai Lama arrived in Taiwan late on Sunday night for a tour primarily aimed at comforting victims of Typhoon Morakot, which battered southern Taiwan last month, killing at least 614 people.

Asked whether he thought he would ever be able to return to his Himalayan homeland, which he left half a century ago at the end of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, he said: “We are always ready to go back to Tibet.”

“Of course, every Tibetan always thinks that way,” he told reporters at the airport as he prepared to depart.

Although he said repeatedly that his visit was “non-political,” China voiced its anger and canceled several delegations to Taiwan, including one led by a central bank deputy governor.

During his stay, the Dalai Lama also had a dialogue with Taiwan’s Catholic leader, Cardinal Paul Shan (單國璽), and held audiences with Tibetan expatriates and local followers of Tibetan Buddhism.

His visit was marred by sporadic demonstrations by pro-unification activists.

Observers said that short-term cross-strait tension was inevitable, but that it would not have a longer-term effect because both Taiwan and China had too much to lose.

“The Dalai Lama’s trip will cause the relationship to cool on the surface, with Beijing cutting down on some activities,” said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), a political analyst at Taipei’s Soochow University.

“However, in the long term, the development in ties across the Taiwan Strait will not be affected because it would be bad for both sides,” Hsu said.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily said excessive criticism of the Dalai Lama could backfire on China.

“The more China uses all its resources to suppress a smiling monk, the more international sympathy and welcome he will receive,” it said in an editorial.

After his departure, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday expressed the hope that exchanges with China would soon get back on track.

The director of the KMT’s mainland affairs department, Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭), said yesterday it would invite high-level officials from China to visit Taiwan next month, with the possibility they would meet with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Ma will take over the KMT chairmanship on Oct. 17.

The KMT was negotiating with China regarding the group meeting with Ma, he said.

Chang said the Dalai Lama’s visit had had a negative impact on Taiwan-China relations, and said the KMT expected cross-strait relations to return to normal after the Tibetan spiritual leader left.

“We expect the two sides to continue showing sincerity based on the [so-called] ‘1992 consensus’ and goodwill toward each other, and that cross-strait exchanges will return to normal,” he said.

Chang said he was concerned that negotiations between the Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait would be affected by the Dalai Lama’s visit.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday the Dalai Lama’s visit had been a successful humanitarian mission, but lamented the government’s unfriendly treatment of a respected religious leader.

“The Dalai Lama did exactly what he came to do, which was to pray and bless the victims of Typhoon Morakot. It was immoral of the pan-blue camp to politicize the trip and smear Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu’s (陳菊) name,” DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said.

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