Former minister of foreign affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday said that the Dalai Lama has accepted an invitation to visit Taiwan.
“I am ready as long as you are ready,” Chen quoted the Dalai Lama as saying in response to his invitation.
Chen, who served as minister of foreign affairs in former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, was assigned by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to attend the Forum 2000 Conference in Prague last week. He returned to Taiwan on Friday.
The Dalai Lama, who attended the forum as a guest speaker, was invited to visit Taiwan during a private conversation on the sidelines of the event, Mark Chen said.
Mark Chen said that he had front-row seats at both of the Dalai Lama’s speeches and that the Tibetan spiritual leader recognized him, since the two had met during the Dalai Lama’s previous visits to Taiwan.
The Dalai Lama visited Taiwan twice during Chen Shui-bian’s presidency.
Mark Chen said he invited the Dalai Lama in his capacity as a private citizen.
In response to reporters’ questions about whether Chinese objections could stall the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan, Mark Chen said: “Chinese pressures are prevalent everywhere and at all times. If they demand that we stop eating, are we to starve ourselves to death?”
Emphasizing that he made those remarks as a private citizen and not as a representative of Tsai’s administration, Mark Chen added: “The Dalai Lama is a world religious and spiritual leader, and it is not right that religious figures are somehow barred from visiting Taiwan.”
Although non-governmental organizations had invited the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, the government steadfastly refused him entry, a decision that critics lambasted as acquiescing to Beijing’s unreasonable demands.
Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said the Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious leader and many of his faithful in Taiwan look forward to his return to the nation.
“Once the government receives his application to visit, it will be processed in accordance to regulations and with mutual respect,” he added.
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