Ma's Thursday announcement Thursday — which followed an invitation to the Tibetan spiritual leader by officials from Taiwan's pro-independence opposition — surprised many. The China-friendly leader has made a priority of seeking better relations with the mainland and just last December nixed plans for a visit by the Dalai Lama in what was seen as an attempt to placate Beijing.
China has long vilified the Dalai Lama for what it says are his attempts to fight for independence in Tibet, which has been under Communist rule for decades. Ma said he was approving the Dalai Lama's visit because it could help ease the island's pain after the devastation of Typhoon Morakot, the storm that struck Taiwan earlier this month, killing an estimated 670 people.
"The Dalai Lama could come to Taiwan to help rest the souls of the dead and also pray for the well-being of the survivors," he said. In its first official comment on Ma's decision, China said Thursday that it "resolutely opposes" the Dalai Lama's visit "in whatever form and capacity."
Quoting an unidentified official in the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said "the Dalai Lama is not a pure religious figure."
"Under the pretext of religion, he has all along been engaged in separatist activities," it quoted the official as saying. More>>
The Dalai Lama is almost, but not quite, a universally beloved religious figure. Find yourself disagreeing with him? You're not alone. Shugden practitioners are critical for reasons that differ radically from China's.