Despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ recent refusal to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama, the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee yesterday passed a resolution to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit Taiwan.
“The Dalai Lama is a very respected religious leader. It harms Taiwan’s reputation as a democracy when we refuse to issue him a visa,” said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), who proposed the resolution. “I therefore suggest that the committee should adopt a resolution sincerely welcoming him.”
Asked for her opinion, Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission Minister Lo Ying-hsueh (羅瑩雪) said she would “be happy to see [the invitation] come true.”
“The Dalai Lama is a respectable religious leader and a learned monk,” Lo said. “The commission would look forward to a visit, but the national security agencies may have another opinion.”
However, some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators, such as Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥), disagreed with the wording of the proposal, which condemns the Chinese government’s repression of the Tibetan independence movement and says the Dalai Lama is welcome to visit Taiwan “at any time, under any status, through any means.”
After negotiations, the two parties agreed to change the wording to simply say that “the Internal Administration Committee sincerely invites Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan.”
That version was passed unanimously.
Asked after the meeting when the committee would send a formal invitation, Chen said the resolution would become official only after it passes a third reading in the legislature.
In related developments, DPP legislators Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) and Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) criticized Lo for inviting the vice president of Minzu University of China, Sherab Nyma, to take part in a cross-strait conference.
Sherab Nyma is a Chinese Tibetan academic who has been supportive of Beijing’s policies in Tibet, while accusing the Dalai Lama of stirring up social unrest in the region.
He has also called on the Chinese government to pay more attention to the separatist activities of the Dalai Lama, adding that “supporting the Dalai Lama is encouraging violations of human rights.”
“Sherab Nyma has authored several books against the Dalai Lama, making groundless accusations. He is an academic with no credibility,” Tuan said. “It doesn’t make any sense that the commission is spending taxpayers’ money inviting such a person to participate in a conference.”
Lee echoed Tuan, saying it was inappropriate to invite Sherab Nyma.
Lo said that the commission had invited Sherab Nyma so that attendees have the chance to hear different opinions.
“We expressed opposition in private to some of his remarks while he was here and it embarrassed him a little,” Lo said.
To show the committee’s displeasure with Sherab Nyma’s visit, DPP and KMT lawmakers agreed to cut NT$4 million (US$137,000) from the commission’s budget.