Taiwan president under attack for barring Dalai Lama's visit

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou came under attack Thursday for refusing to allow Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, reported dpa.

Parliament speaker Wang Jin-pyng urged Ma to reconsider his decision while some lawmakers blasted Ma for kowtowing to China, which sees the Dalai Lama as a "splittist."

"Dalai Lama is the most-trusted and most-revered religious leader. If we look at it from the religious point of view, then we should reconsider," he told parliament.

Wang said Taiwan should find a way to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan while not affecting Taipei-Beijing ties, which have improved since Ma took office in May.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) blasted Ma for cancelling a previous invitation to the Dalai Lama so as to please China.

"Ma's decision does not represent the will of the Taiwan people. We will ask the parliament to pass a resolution to welcome the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan," DPP lawmakers Huang Wei-cheh and Lai Ching-teh told a news conference.

In recent years, Ma has voiced support on several occasions for the pro-democracy movement in China and for the Dalai Lama's fight for the autonomy of Tibet.

In an interviewed published by the Süddeutschen Zeitung on July 12, Ma said "if the Dalai Lama visits Taiwan as a religious leader, our side will welcome him."

Taiwan authorities on Thursday defended Ma's decision to bar the Dalai Lama's visit.

The president's spokesman Wang Yu-chi said Ma made the decision out of national interests. "In future if there is an appropriate time for the visit, we will make arrangements," he said.

Lai Shin-yuan, chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said the decision regarding the spiritual leader's visit must be made jointly by the National Security Council, the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.

But on Thursday, Ma said the timing wasn't appropriate for the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan.

The Dalai Lama, in exile in India since 1959, has close ties with Taiwan for political and religious reasons. He has some 500,000 disciples in Taiwan and opened his representative office in Taipei in 1998.

He drew large crowds when he visited Taiwan in 1997 and 2001 to lecture on Buddhism.

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