The Dalai Lama arrived in Taiwan on a China Airlines flight from Delhi late last night. He was welcomed by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu before taking a specially chartered high speed train to Kaohsiung. Given the short time frame between the Dalai Lama’s invitation and his arrival in Taiwan it is not surprising there have been some changes to his schedule. However, many of these changes may have been for political rather than practical reasons.
Today’s Liberty Times (自由時報) has an article titled, “Friends of Tibet blames Ma for restricting Dalai Lama’s activities” (台灣圖博批馬 限制達賴活動). I have translated the first part of the article.
The Dalai Lama arrived in Taiwan late last night. Compared to the Dalai Lama’s respects and good wishes, Taiwan’s has shown its hospitality by cancelling the press conference and public speech in Taoyuan. The venue of the public speech in Kaohsiung has also been changed. Chow Mei-li, President of Taiwan Friends of Tibet, indignantly blamed Ma Ying-jeou for his double-handed tactics. On the one hand he respected public opinion by allowing the Dalai Lama to come, on the other hand he restricted the Dalai Lama’s entire schedule in Taiwan. Chow said, “This is definitely a result of pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. It is becoming more apparent that the Ma government is not acting autonomously, it is not even a good puppet emperor!”
NOW News reports that Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu was responsible for inviting the Dalai Lama to Taiwan.
Last week’s urgent decision for the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, who was responsible for making the invitation? On the evening of 31 August the Kaohsiung City Government put out a press release confirming that Chen Chu contacted the seven city and county chiefs in Southern Taiwan regarding inviting the Dalai Lama to comfort the victims of the typhoon. Regarding the cancellation of the press conference, Chen Chu emphasised that she suggested that the Dalai Lama should first go to the disaster area to show his concern for the victims.
And although the visit is supposedly non-political the Dalai Lama did make some carefully worded comments on politics while visiting Xiaolin. Reuters reports:
“I’m very, very strict, (the trip is of a) non-political nature,” the Dalai Lama told reporters, appearing to try to reassure Beijing.
The 1988 Nobel peace prize winner, after leading prayers at a the site of a giant mudslide at the village of Hsiao Lin, did not mention Tibet but told reporters he was in favour of democracy, a comment apparently aimed at Communist-ruled China.
“We are not seeking separation for Taiwan, but the fate of Taiwan depends on the more than 20 million people. You are enjoying democracy and that you must preserve,” he said. “I myself am totally dedicated to the promotion of democracy.”
There is no escaping politics wherever the Dalai Lama goes. Although the DPP’s invitation to the Dalai Lama was to some extent a political move, the DPP have since largely avoided politicising the Dalai Lama’s visit. It seems the loudest complaints about the political nature of the visit have come from those who are most opposed to the Dalai Lama visiting. The pro-China forces would rather seek favour with the Communists in Beijing than accept a visit by the Dalai Lama to console the victims of Typhoon Morakot.
There were plenty more reactions to the Dalai Lama’s visit on the internet. Billy Pan posted an article about the Dalai Lama’s 2001 visit to Taiwan. At that time Ma, who was then the Mayor of Taipei said, “Taipei City forever welcomes the Dalai Lama” (台北市永遠歡迎達賴喇嘛). Oiwan Lam at Global Voices collected some bloggers’ opinions on the Dalai Lama’s visit.
There was also some interesting talk on Twitter about the Dalai Lama’s visit. Here are a few selected tweets.
taiwannews A figure loved across Taiwan, World, smeared as nothing less than a terrorist by the Chinese Communist Party. Consider that.
sundds Dalai Lama’s Taiwan visit is for the ppl-esp typhoon victims,great move but not without political sensitivity!
vshchen 馬英九政府打壓達賴喇嘛的言行跟中國共產黨如出一轍。達賴喇嘛的公開行程已幾乎全部取消，國民黨獨裁暴政，民進黨懦弱無能。台灣人自求多福吧！[Ma Ying-jeou’s oppression of the Dalai Lama’s speech is no different from the Chinese Communist Party. The Dalai Lama’s public schedule has almost been completely cancelled. The KMT is dictatorial and despotic, the DPP is weak and incapable. Taiwanese people need to seek good blessings on their own.]
Some tweets were more positive. Freddy Lim tweeted a link to Taiwanese rapper Dog G’s new song about the Dalai Lama.
And although the opportunities to see the Dalai Lama in person while he is in Taiwan may be limited everyone will at least have the chance to watch his public speech on TV.
FreddyLim 公視獨家轉播達賴演講：9/1(二)下午兩點，達賴喇嘛於蓮潭會館的演講，公視13頻道現場轉播！[PTS exclusive broadcast of Dalai Lama’s public speech. 9/1 (Tuesday) 2:00pm, Dalai Lama at the Garden Villa public speech. PTS channel 13 broadcasting live from the site.]