Tibetan Buddhist leader says visit is humanitarian, following criticism from China.
The Taiwan government, keen to avoid any cooling of relations with China that have been warming since Ma Ying-jeou became president last year, has taken pains not to anger Beijing over the visit.
Ma has said he will not meet the Nobel peace laureate, who was invited by the opposition Democratic Progressive party (DPP) to pray for those affected by Morakot.
|Some local residents were also angered by the Tibetan spiritual leader’s trip|
The typhoon struck Taiwan on August 8 and unleashed floods and mudslides, leaving more than 400 people dead.
The Chinese government says the Dalai Lama is a “splittist” fighting for Tibetan independence and it often reacts angrily to governments which allow him to visit.
“No matter under what form or identity Dalai uses to enter Taiwan, we resolutely oppose this,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Bureau said last week.
But it blamed the opposition for using “the disaster rescue excuse to invite Dalai to Taiwan to sabotage the hard-earned positive situation of cross-straits relations”, indicating that it is unlikely to retaliate against Ma’s government.
Besides protests from Beijing, the Dalai Lama’s visit has also prompted objections from some local residents, with a group of 30 demonstrators accusing him of using the visit to stage a “political show”.
The protesters, who said they were typhoon victims from the country’s aboriginal community, stood outside the Dalai Lama’s hotel in the southern city of Kaohsiung on Monday, holding up banners that read “we don’t want Dalai politics”.
“The Dalai Lama is only staging a political show here,” a leader of the protesters, told the AFP news agency.
“If the Dalai Lama really wants to help victims and show respect, he should stay in an aboriginal village, not in a big building like this,” he said, pointing towards the hotel.