Taiwan asks Dalai Lama to Keep Politics Out of his Visit


Taipei, Sep 2: Authorities in Taiwan attempted on Wednesday to play down the visit of the Dalai Lama, cancelling a public prayer meeting and hoping to avoid the Chinese government's wrath.

"From Wednesday afternoon until his departure on Friday morning, there are no open activities," a staff member from the Dalai Lama's representative office in Taipei said.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader held a dialogue Wednesday morning with Catholic Cardinal Shan Kuo-hsi on religion in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan and was scheduled to return to Taipei Wednesday afternoon.

To avoid further annoying China, Taiwan cancelled the Dalai Lama's second prayer meeting, which had been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at a stadium outside Taipei. His first was held Tuesday in Kaohsiung.

The Dalai Lama was invited to Taiwan this week to pray and offer comfort to victims of last month's Typhoon Morakot, which killed nearly 700 people in landslides and flooding.

China, however, sees the Dalai Lama as a "splittist" who wants independence for Tibet. It has lodged two protests and cancelled or postponed several delegation visits to Taiwan as a result of his visit.

The Buddhist leader, however, has repeatedly stressed his visit is non-political and has said he does not want independence for Tibet, only greater autonomy for the region within China.

On Tuesday, Wu Poh-hsiung, secretary general of Taiwan's ruling Chinese Nationalist Party, urged the Dalai Lama not to carry out political activities on the remainder of his trip.

"Right now, he is exercising self-restraint," Wu told reporters.

"There are still a couple of days left. I hope he can see to it that his trip is devoted to human compassion and does not touch on politics."

"Taiwan was hit by such a big disaster," Wu added. "He has come to help us, not to increase our difficulties."

A local official in southern Taiwan who has close ties with the opposition, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party invited the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan and bless the survivors of Morakot, which hit southern Taiwan Aug 8.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who has been seeking to improve Taipei-Beijing ties since he took office in May 2008, approved the visit, triggering protests from China.

The 73-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader arrived Sunday night from India, where he has been leading the Tibetan government-in-exile since he fled China in 1959.

He visited the typhoon disaster areas to comfort the survivors and held Tuesday's prayer meeting to appease the souls of the typhoon victims.

He was expected to leave Taipei Friday morning to return to Dharamsala in northern India.



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