Dalai Lama visits Taiwan

The Dalai Lama arrived in Taiwan last night to comfort victims of the island's worst storm in 50 years, vowing that his visit would be "purely humanitarian".

Hours before government officials said they hoped he would stay clear of politics to avoid angering China. Although the Tibetan spiritual leader has travelled to Taiwan before, many fear his arrival could hurt the island's improving relations with China – the signature issue in the 15-month-old administration of the Taiwanese President, Ma Ying-jeou. China has protested against the visit.

The Dalai Lama, who clasped his hands and smiled as he greeted Buddhist followers and supporters at the Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei, said his visit would have no political overtone.

"I've visited different parts of the world, and I may have a political agenda there ... (but) my visit here is purely for humanitarian concerns," he said.

His arrival at a suburban Taipei train station was greeted by about 50 demonstrators waving Chinese flags and banners supporting unification with China and shouting "Go home Dalai Lama, don't come here." The demonstrators briefly scuffled with police.

"I'm here to oppose the Dalai Lama's visit," 62-year-old protester Feng Tsai-chiao said. "I want unification with China so I don't like him."

China has long vilified the Dalai Lama for what it says are his attempts to fight for independence in Tibet. Beijing has said it "resolutely opposes" the Taiwan visit "in whatever form and capacity."

Wu Poh-hsiung, the chairman of Ma's Nationalist Party, said earlier Sunday that his party has sought Beijing's understanding of the visit, but he did not give details or say whether China responded.

"We believe the Dalai Lama will have the wisdom to distinguish between religious empathy and political maneuvering," Wu told reporters.

Ma has said he approved the Dalai Lama's visit but will not meet him.

Before his departure, the Dalai Lama said he did not think his visit to Taiwan would cause tension between China and Taiwan.

"Broadly speaking, I don't think that is so," he told reporters in India, adding that he has a "very strict nonpolitical nature."

Taiwan's opposition invited the Dalai Lama to comfort the victims of Typhoon Morakot, which hit the island in early August and left an estimated 670 dead. During his five-day visit, he is to visit a village hit hard by the storm, lead a mass prayer ritual and address the island's Buddhist followers.

"There are many Buddhists there. So since they asked me, it is my moral responsibility, to accept, to go there," the Tibetan spiritual leader said.

China has blamed Taiwan's opposition, not Ma, for the invitation, in what appeared to be an effort to keep the improving relations on track. China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and China's leaders want the self-governing island back.

The invitation put Ma in a bind — either risk angering China or give further ammunition to his detractors, who were already reveling over widespread perceptions that Ma's government had badly botched typhoon relief efforts.

Many members of Ma's party saw the invitation as an effort by the rival Democratic Progressive Party to embarrass the president.

Legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng said he hoped the Dalai Lama would not make political statements that would "change the tune of what's supposed to be a religious trip."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas