“I really can’t answer your questions here,” Ko said, adding that the ministry had made the decision pursuant to its authority.
The decision drew an angry response from various groups.
Taiwan Friends of Tibet president Chow Mei-li (周美里) panned the Ma administration for rejecting the visa.
“It’s obvious that the government refuses to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama because of the China factor,” Chow said by telephone. “It’s ridiculous that the government is already bending over even before China says anything — he [Ma] has lost direction.”
Chow said she could not imagine any other democratic nation would refuse the visit of a Nobel Prize laureate.
“Maybe what the minister of foreign affairs said was right: It is not the right time for the Dalai Lama to visit now; it would be a better time for His Holiness to visit after Ma steps down,” Chow said.
Speaking on the sidelines of a symposium in Taipei, US-based Chinese dissident and writer Wilson Chen (陳破空) also weighed in, saying the refusal was self-belittling and would harm the democratic values cherished by all Taiwanese.
“It is a great pity that Taiwan, which claims that it is a sovereign country, refused the Dalai Lama’s entry over fear of offending Beijing,” he said.
BPW Taiwan said the move reflected fear of angering China, which sees the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as a separatist.
“We are angry as the government is obviously worried about China’s reaction. It’s ridiculous that Taiwan has to listen to China and seek its approval before doing anything,” a spokeswoman for Lu said.
The ministry denied China had anything to do with the decision.
“It’s just not a good time,” ministry spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said, declining to elaborate.
Additional reporting by Loa Iok-sin, Chris Wang and AFP