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

Dalai Lama visits typhoon-hit Taiwan

September 1, 2009

Dalai Lama stresses post-Morakot visit is
non-political, after China criticises Taiwan opposition for invitation

Tania Branigan in Beijing and agencies
August 31, 2009

The Dalai Lama began his trip to Taiwan today by
insisting his stay was non-political, after China
warned that it would damage the island's relations with the mainland.

The exiled spiritual leader offered prayers for
recent victims of typhoon Morakot as he kicked
off the visit, which has brought together China's
two most sensitive territorial issues. Beijing
said the trip was "bound to have a negative
influence" on recently improved ties across the strait.

The Dalai Lama did not discuss Tibet, although on
a visit to a village buried by a mudslide he told
reporters he was dedicated to promoting
democracy. About 570 people died across the south
of the island as Morakot unleashed harsh winds and torrential rain this month.

Beijing usually criticised in harsh terms nations
that allow the Dalai Lama to visit, warning that
he is a "splittist" who wants Tibetan
independence -- although he insists he seeks only
autonomy. Taiwan is an especially sensitive case
because China still claims sovereignty over the self-ruled territory.

But the tone of official comments was low key and
China blamed the opposition Democratic
Progressive party (DPP), which invited the Dalai
Lama, rather than the ruling Kuomintang. The
president, Ma Ying-jeou, who engineered the
recent thaw with the mainland, approved the trip
but will not meet the Buddhist leader.

In December Ma said 2009 would not be an
appropriate time for the Dalai Lama to visit. But
when the DPP issued the invitation, he faced a
choice between risking the anger of Beijing and
offering ammunition to his critics, who argue
that he has been too concerned with pleasing
China and that the government's handling of the
typhoon was slow and incompetent. His popularity
has been badly dented by the disaster.

"I'm very, very strict, [the trip is of a]
non-political nature," the Dalai Lama told
reporters. But he added: "We are not seeking
separation for Taiwan, but the fate of Taiwan
depends on the more than 20 million people
[here]. You are enjoying democracy and that you
must preserve. I myself am totally dedicated to the promotion of democracy."

He said the island should have "very close and unique links" with the mainland.

Kneeling on the ground above what was once the
village of Hsiao-lin, in southern Taiwan, he
offered prayers for the estimated 500 people who
died in mudslides triggered by Morakot.

"We welcome him and we're very happy that he's
here," said Liu Ming-chuan, one of 50 former
residents who had returned for the visit.

Prior to his arrival in Taiwan, the Dalai Lama
said it was his responsibility to accept the
invitation because there were many Buddhists there.

The spokesman for the Taiwan affairs office of
China's State Council attacked the DPP for its
"ulterior motives to instigate the Dalai Lama,
who has long been engaged in separatist
activities, to visit Taiwan," according to the state news agency Xinhua.

He added: "We resolutely oppose this ... [His]
visit is bound to have a negative influence on
the relations between the mainland and Taiwan."

A member of the ruling Kuomintang said the party
had sent an official to China to speak to the
Taiwan affairs office, but he declined to elaborate on the reason.

About 20 protesters demonstrated outside the
Dalai Lama's hotel today, saying the visit was
not bringing real disaster relief to Taiwan.

"I love it," the Tibetan spiritual leader told
reporters. "It's an indication of freedom of expression. It's wonderful."
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