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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Ma’s stance on Dalai Lama’s visit

December 9, 2008

By Dr. William Fang, Special to The China Post
December 8, 2008
 
At a recent news conference for foreign media, President Ma Ying-jeou said although Taiwan welcomes all world religious leaders to visit, the arrival of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the exile government of Tibet, at the present time is not “appropriate.” During the 2008 presidential campaign, Ma expressed support for the Tibetan exile government in protest of Beijing’s suppression of uprisings by Tibetan separatists, hence, his turnabout in his position at the press conference caused considerable speculations.
 
Kao Shih-po, chairman of the Commission of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, pointed out that the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan would be a highly sensitive matter since “wherever he (the Tibetan spiritual leader) goes, he will arouse serious concern in Beijing.”
 
Western leaders generally welcome the Dalai Lama, a Nobel peace laureate and the most popular international leader, according to latest opinion polls, because it is in their national interest. Top leaders of both Germany and France agreed to receive Dalai Lama in spite of pressure from the Chinese Communists.
 
In Taiwan, the opposition Democratic Progressive party (DPP), which advocates Taiwan’s independence, is soliciting religious groups to extend a joint invitation to the Dalai Lama. Cheng Wen-tsang, the DPP spokesman, questioned whether the Ma administration had struck a deal with Beijing over the Tibetan leader’s visit. In an article published in a major local newspaper, a reader believed Ma failed to preserve the dignity and sovereignty of Taiwan by refusing to allow the Dalai Lama to visit the island.
 
Now, the hard question for the Ma administration is not whether it should follow the European-American trend but whether a Dalai Lama visit at this time is in the best interest of Taiwan, having nothing to do with national sovereignty.
 
As far as the issue of religion and human rights is concerned, there is no doubt that Taiwan should back the Dalai Lama just as Ma indicated his position in the campaign. But, the problem is that the Tibetan leader is also considered by Beijing to be a secessionist. Now, the question has become a political one. With the recent visit by Chen Yuulin, chairman of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), the cross-strait exchanges have achieved new breakthroughs, and this relationship is based on a “win-win” strategy, which means both sides agree to put the political issue of sovereignty aside for the time being. This is why the Ma administration described a Dalai Lama visit to Taiwan at this time as “too sensitive.”
 
It must be noted that cross-strait relations have entered into a very important and delicate stage with the promise of benefiting both Taipei and Beijing in a substantial manner. All negotiations are being conducted on the basis of parity, with concessions made on both sides to show goodwill. Therefore, there is absolutely no issue of national dignity involved here.
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