China yesterday warned Taiwan not to allow exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit, after New Power Party Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) issued an invitation.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has not said whether the government would allow a visit by the Dalai Lama, who congratulated Tsai on her “remarkable” victory in the Jan. 16 election.
Lim, an outspoken critic of Beijing, invited the Dalai Lama when he met him in India last week.
Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光), spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news briefing in Beijing that the Dalai Lama “wears religious clothes to carry out separatist activities.”
“The intention of some forces in Taiwan to collude with separatists seeking ‘Tibet independence’ and to create disturbances will have a severe impact on relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Ma said. “We firmly oppose any form of visit.”
Lim’s assistant, Kenny Chang (張庭瑜), said that the Dalai Lama is highly respected in Taiwan and that Lim invited him “to share his ideas and religious philosophy.”
On Tuesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) told lawmakers that if the Dalai Lama decided to come, the ministry would review the matter carefully, Chinese-language media reported.
A ministry spokeswoman told reporters: “If he submits his [visa] application, the government will handle it based on relevant rules.”
Tenzin Taklha, an aide to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, declined to comment yesterday when reached by telephone.
The Dalai Lama is currently on a visit to Europe. Yesterday he met with a group of French lawmakers at the Senate in Paris.
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) refused the Dalai Lama entry several times after his last visit to Taiwan in 2009.
In 2008, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) criticized Ma’s administration for refusing to grant the Dalai Lama entry.
According to the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), at the time Tsai characterized the Dalai Lama as “a friend of Taiwan” who was denied entry because Ma Ying-jeou was “afraid of China.”
She was quoted as saying that the nation should not be intimidated by China and that as DPP chairperson, she would be “steadfast in defending” this position.
Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) yesterday said that the office “would not comment on a hypothetical case.”
DPP spokesman Yang Chia-liang (楊家俍) last night said the DPP has long been concerned with religious freedom in China.
The government has rules it must follow in issuing visas and the DPP respects that, he said.
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬), approached as he was leaving a Central Standing Committee meeting at the DPP’s headquarters in Taipei, said that he hoped the government would “tough it out” to welcome the Dalai Lama.
“From the perspective of the freedom of speech and asserting Taiwan’s sovereign independence, we have no cause to follow the example of the Ma [Ying-jeou] administration in refusing the Dalai Lama’s visit,” Gao said.
Additional reporting by Su Fang-ho