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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Dalai Lama prays, encourages democracy in Taiwan

September 1, 2009

By PETER ENAV
The Associated Press
August 31, 2009

SHIAO LIN, Taiwan -- The Dalai Lama said Taiwan
should have "very close and unique links" with
China but also enjoy democracy, as he arrived at
a devastated village Monday to pray for victims
of Taiwan's worst storm in 50 years.

The first full day of his five-day visit tested
the recently warming relations between China and
the self-ruled island, which Beijing wants back
after the two split six decades ago.

Kneeling on the ground above what was once the
farming village of Shiao Lin, the Tibetan
spiritual leader offered his prayers for the
estimated 500 villagers who died in mudslides
triggered by Typhoon Morakot in early August. The
village is now an empty stretch of mud and scattered boulders.

Overall, some 670 were killed in the storm, and
the Dalai Lama plans to lead a mass prayer ritual for them.

At Shiao Lin, he put his palms together in prayer
while a monk next to him recited a Buddhist sutra.

Then he embraced two weeping relatives of Shiao
Lin victims, holding their heads as he knelt on the ground and prayed.

Some 50 former Shiao Lin residents had returned
to welcome him, many wearing T-shirts with
pictures of the village before the deadly mudslides.

"We welcome him and we're very happy that he's here," said Liu Ming-chuan, 44.

The Dalai Lama also made brief remarks about the
tragedy and about the invitation for his visit.
He has said he had a moral responsibility to visit the victims.

He said he was not disappointed by President Ma
Ying-jeou's refusal to meet him. "This is a
humanitarian visit," he told reporters. "On my
side, there is no political agenda."

"In any case, Taiwan should have very close and
unique links with mainland China, but at the same
time Taiwan also should enjoy democracy and prosperity," he added.

Communist Party-ruled China has long vilified the
Dalai Lama for what it claims as his attempt to
fight for independence of Tibet, which has been
under communist rule for decades.

But instead of criticizing Ma for his visit, the
spokesman for China's State Council Taiwan
Affairs Office blasted Taiwan's opposition
Democratic Progressive Party for its "ulterior
motives to instigate the Dalai Lama, who has long
been engaged in separatist activities, to visit Taiwan."

Taiwan's opposition had invited the Dalai Lama to comfort the typhoon victims.

The invitation came as Taiwan and China have
dramatically improved their relations after
decades of enmity. Ma has made closer business
ties and cultural exchanges a signature issue of
his 15-month-old administration.

Beijing has said it "resolutely opposes" the
Taiwan visit, and a Chinese official for Taiwan
affairs on Sunday night warned the visit "is
bound to have a negative influence on the
relations between the mainland and Taiwan."

Not all in Taiwan welcomed the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Earlier Monday, some 20 demonstrators confronted
him outside his hotel, saying the visit was short
of bringing real disaster relief to Taiwan.

"I love it," the Dalai Lama told reporters in
response. "It's an indication of freedom of expression. It's wonderful."
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