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Taiwan taking pains to make Dalai Lama's visit non-political

August 31, 2009

Samaylive
(Source: IANS)
August 28, 2009

Taipei -- Taiwan's government is trying to keep
the Dalai Lama's activities non-political during
his visit next week to avoid angering China with
which it has recently enjoyed warming ties.

The focus of the trip by the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader is to comfort victims of Typhoon
Morakot. His preliminary schedule, released by
his Taipei office Friday, showed he would arrive
from India Sunday night and leave on Friday morning.

He was scheduled to spend at least three days in
southern Taiwan, which bore the brunt of Morakot
this month but which is also away from the capital and the focus of the media.

"He will spend Monday, the first full day, in
Kaohsiung, visiting the disaster areas and
typhoon survivors," a staff member from the Dalai
Lama's office said, asking not to be named.

The Dalai Lama is to remain in Kaohsiung Tuesday
and Wednesday, holding prayer meetings and giving
speeches, his office said. His Thursday schedule was undecided.

Local leaders in southern Taiwan invited the
Dalai Lama to comfort the survivors of Morakot,
which hit Taiwan Aug 8, unleashing mudslides and
flooding. At least 461 people were killed and 192 were missing.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who said in December that
the time was not ripe for the Dalai Lama to
visit, approved his trip under pressure from the
opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP),
which insisted the Dalai Lama's visit was vital
for inspiring typhoon survivors to rebuild their homeland.

While Ma's government has been the architect of
improving relations with China, it is also facing
harsh criticism over its slow reaction to the
disaster and botched rescue efforts.

Taiwan media said the government, in an attempt
to keep the Dalai Lama's visit low-key and
prevent him from engaging in political
activities, wants him to stay in the disaster
areas in southern Taiwan, but the DPP is trying
to arrange a prayer meeting in northern Taiwan.

China protested the trip Thursday, saying it was
firmly opposed to the Dalai Lama visiting Taiwan
in whatever form because his true purpose is to split the Chinese motherland.
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