Mon, Jun 16, 2008 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: People of Taiwan still in thoughts of the Dalai Lama

PRAISE INDEEDThe Tibetan spiritual head said that, despite obstacles, he was keen to visit Taiwan again and lauded the nation’s development and democracy

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Dalai Lama gestures during an interview with the “Taipei Times” at his residence in Dharamsala, India, on June 7.

PHOTO: LOA IOK-SIN, TAIPEI TImeS

From politics to the Olympics, human rights to life during half-a-century of exile, the Dalai Lama shared his views on a variety of topics during an interview with the Taipei Times at his residence in Dharamsala, India, on the morning of June 7.

Without much formality and after only a brief greeting, the Dalai Lama began the conversation by praising Taiwan’s democratic achievements.

“The second transfer of power has just taken place in Taiwan ... I think this shows that Taiwan is a true democracy,” he said in Tibetan. “Many people say that democracy is not suitable for Asian countries — but Taiwan’s case just proved otherwise.”

The Dalai Lama also expressed his admiration for Taiwan’s cultural diversity.

“It’s a good thing that Taiwan has been able to preserve elements of Chinese culture that has been passed down for thousands of years — most of them have already been lost in China,” he said.

“In addition to that, Taiwan has achieved outstanding economic development, pursued modern culture and democracy — it has really set a example for many in the world to follow,” the Dalai Lama said.

Recalling his two visits to Taiwan, first in 1997 and then in 2001, the Dalai Lama, switching to English, said: “I’ve got happy memories from my first visit to Taiwan. Taiwanese people — the public in general and Taiwanese Buddhists — all expressed warm feelings to me.”

“I remember one occasion when I was in Kaohsiung giving some teachings and talks, and it started to rain suddenly,” he said, “but people remained there in the rain.”

This enthusiasm was impressive, the Tibetan spiritual leader said.

“So since then, I was determined that every two years I want to go to Taiwan,” he said.

Unfortunately, political pressure from China has blocked him from fulfilling his wish.

“In 2002, we developed direct contacts with the Chinese government, hoping that there would be some concrete understandings [between China and Tibet],” he said. “They are very, very against my visiting Taiwan.”

Although the Dalai Lama assured China that any trip to Taiwan would only be concerned with Buddhism and the promotion of human values and harmony, Beijing still objects, he said.

“I told them that they can send an official with me when I’m in Taiwan, so they can check whom I meet with, what I talk about or whether there’s a secret conspiracy,” he said, but the suggestion has yet to be accepted.

“The Chinese government in Beijing is very concerned about my visiting Taiwan. So after two visits, I cannot go there [anymore], and I would like to apologize to you,” he said while bowing his head. “But Taiwanese brothers and sisters — I never forget [about you], and I’m waiting for another opportunity to go there.”

He also expressed gratitude to all the Taiwanese who offered their support and help to Tibetan communities after unrest in March following gatherings in Tibet to commemorate the March 10, 1959, uprising against Chinese rule.

Demonstrations were answered by a violent crackdown by Chinese authorities which in turn, triggered more demonstrations and protests by Tibetans in Tibetan communities inside and outside Tibet as well as pro-Tibetan sympathizers.

“I always consider our supporters not pro-Tibet or anti-Chinese, rather, they’re pro-justice,” he said.

It’s unfortunate that many Chinese people have the impression that he is anti-China, he said.

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