Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday lambasted President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government for denying a visa to the Dalai Lama, saying this was another “proof” of Ma’s pro-China position.
“President Ma, what are you afraid of? What do you want to do? Your denial of the Dalai Lama’s visit has hurt Taiwanese and Taiwan’s international image,” Lu told a joint press conference with the DPP caucus in the legislature.
Lu, head of the Asia-Pacific regional conference of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International), which will be held in Taipei from Dec. 1 to 3, invited the Tibetan spiritual leader to attend the conference in February.
The former vice president said she personally asked Ma for help with the Dalai Lama’s visa on Sept. 1, and Ma told her the visit would be “a complex issue.”
BPW International president Freda Miriklis wrote Ma on Aug. 28 and Sept. 10 to inquire about the visit, according to Lu, but did not receive a response until Nov. 16, when Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) turned down the visa request in a letter to Miriklis.
“As for His Holiness the Dalai Lama attending the Conference, he is welcome to travel to Taiwan in due course; however, we need to arrange a more opportune time for his visit,” Lin wrote in his reply.
Lu said the reply was “ridiculous” and that Ma had been evading the issue for four months since her first inquiry.
“People said Ma has been trying to remove all the roadblocks for Beijing so China would easily unify Taiwan in the future. Judging from what Ma has been doing, it would be difficult not to agree with the observation,” Lu said.
Human rights know no border or time, and every country that values democracy and freedom welcomes the Dalai Lama’s visit, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said in Hualien.
Using “inappropriate timing” as an excuse to deny the visit “does not make sense,” Su said.
“The denial “was a violation of the mainstream value of an international democratic society and has jeopardized Taiwan’s international image,” Liu Shih-chung (劉世忠), director of the DPP’s Department of International Affairs, said in a press release.
The Dalai Lama visited Taiwan three times in 1997, 2001 and 2009.
In 2001, then-Taipei mayor Ma said the city “always welcomes the Dalai Lama’s visit.”
However, Ma’s attitude toward the Tibetan leader’s visit came into question after he became president in 2008, as his administration had barred the Dalai Lama from visiting Taiwan several times.
Ma told the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club in December 2008 that while Taiwan generally welcomes religious leaders from all over the world, “I think at the current moment, the timing isn’t appropriate.”
The Dalai Lama was able to visit southern Taiwan at the invitation of seven DPP mayors and commissioners one month after Typhoon Morakot devastated parts of the south in August 2009, killing about 700 people and causing widespread damage.
A Presidential Office official said that the government’s decision to turn down the proposed visit was based on a “professional assessment” by relevant authorities.
The official, who declined to be named, did not elaborate on the government’s assessment, but said that Taiwan supports religious freedom and welcomes religious leaders from around the world to visit Taiwan for faith-related activities.
Additional reporting by CNA