Chinese furious as Dalai Lama finds a new friend

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The Independent Online
For a man of peace, he has caused quite a stir. The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, yesterday visited Taiwan, bringing together two of the most incendiary issues for mainland China.

China has assailed his journey - and an expected meeting on Thursday with the Taiwanese President, Lee Teng-hui - as the collusion of "splittists" bent on independence from China for both Tibet and Taiwan. China has ruled Tibet with often brutal military force since occupying it in 1950.

"Taiwan authorities and the Dalai Lama clique are colluding and using each other, consorting with evil doers, going further and further down the road of splitting China," China's official People's Daily newspaper quoted unidentified "Tibet specialists" as saying.

Last night the Buddhist god-king addressed a crowd estimated at more than 20,000 in a stadium in the port city of Kaohsiung. It was the first of three major "enlightenment meetings" at the heart of his busy schedule in Taiwan, which he and his hosts have insisted is strictly religious. Buddhists swarmed for a glimpse of him and supporters waved Tibet's snow- lion flag to greet him.

Intense media scrutiny and crowds of protesters, both for and against his visit, have led to tight security around the Dalai Lama. His limousine was sandwiched in a 20-car motorcade, a treatment usually reserved for heads of state.

His visit has stirred a long-dormant debate about whether Tibet is part of China - a question with deep ramifications for a far hotter debate about whether Taiwan should reunite with China or go it alone.

Taiwan's exiled Republic of China government, ousted from the mainland by the Communists in 1949, maintains that Taiwan and Tibet both are part of China and that Taiwan should reunite with the mainland, though not before Peking embraces multi-party democracy.

Advocates of Taiwan's independence from China insisted that the Dalai Lama be treated as a visiting head of state, calculating that this would bolster Taiwan's own right to self-determination. Agencies, Taipei