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Taiwan President Ma again plays down Dalai Lama visit

December 22, 2008

DPP chair says Taiwan cannot deny the leader since Taiwan is also China's victim
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Taiwan News - 2008-12-06
President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated yesterday that the timing for a visit by the Dalai Lama to Taiwan at the present time was not right.
Taiwan would extend a warm welcome to the Tibetan leader if he visited for religious activities at an opportune time, but now was not that time, Ma told a visiting delegation of Italian politicians at the Presidential Office.
Ma first made similar statements at a meeting with foreign correspondents in Taipei on Wednesday. His remarks touched off criticism that he was pandering to China.
"China suppresses us, and now we help China suppressing others," said Tsai Ing-wen, the chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive party.
Other heads of state can refuse to meet the Dalai Lama, but Taiwan cannot refuse to welcome him, because Taiwan itself is also a victim of suppression, she said, adding that the country should be honored to receive the religious leader.
The opposition wondered whether China had pressured Ma into refusing the visit, but the Presidential Office denied Thursday there had been any contacts over the issue.
DPP lawmakers said they would file a non-binding motion to invite the Dalai Lama to the island.
The DPP wanted to cooperate with local religious groups to invite him to attend a Buddhist prayer meeting, party spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang told reporters.
Cheng also faulted Ma for offering his support to Tibet and even threatening to boycott last August's Beijing Olympics before taking office as president last May, but now completely changing his stance.
The DPP said Ma had put the Dalai Lama on a black list, comparing it to the Taiwanese government's practice under martial law to ban opponents from entering the country.
Opposition lawmakers said they would look for creative solutions to try and convince the Tibetan leader to visit the island.
"The DPP will invite the public to send one letter each to the Dalai Lama Foundation in Taipei to invite the Dalai Lama for a visit to Taiwan," legislator Pan Men-an told reporters.
In his discussion with the Italian lawmakers, Ma emphasized that Taiwan was "a country where the people enjoy absolute freedom of religion and that's the reason why all religious leaders and figures in the world are welcome to visit Taiwan."
The Dalai Lama has visited Taiwan twice before. He has not filed an application yet for a third visit, but told the media he was thinking about a trip next year.
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