His Holiness the Dalai Lama is set to visit Taiwan next week to provide comfort to the victims of the Typhoon Morakot. He was invited by DPP city and county chiefs in Southern Taiwan. President Ma Ying-jeou subsequently gave his approval for the visit. In December last year Ma rejected the possibility of the Dalai Lama visiting Taiwan even though no formal invitation had been issued at the time. However, with his approval rating plummeting in the wake of the central government’s inept response to the typhoon Ma couldn’t afford to say no this time. It was a smart political move by the DPP.
I took the above photo of a poster at the 50 years of Tibet in Exile exhibition that was held at Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in July this year. I think it is interesting on a number of levels. First it shows the Dalai Lama meeting various world leaders including several Presidents of Taiwan and the USA. However, under the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act it is not possible for the Presidents of the USA and Taiwan to meet each other in person.
The Dalai Lama previously visited Taiwan in 1997 and 2001. The photo shows the Dalai Lama meeting with the three most recent Presidents of Taiwan. Lee Teng-hui, presumably on the Dalai Lama’s first visit to Taiwan in 1997. The Dalai Lama met Chen Shui-bian on his second visit to Taiwan in 2001. The KMT actually prevented Chen from meeting the Dalai Lama when he was the Mayor of Taipei in 1997. Lastly the photo of the Dalai Lama meeting Ma Ying-jeou who is now the President, but I presume the photo was taken in 2001 when Ma was the Mayor of Taipei.
Of course the big question now is whether Ma Ying-jeou, as the incumbent President, will meet with the Dalai Lama this time. Sadly there seems to be no chance for former President Chen Shui-bian to meet the Dalai Lama this time as he is still being held in detention waiting for the verdict in his trial to be handed down on 11 September.