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Peking's two most derided critics hold talks

Jojo Moyes
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, yesterdayrounded off his first visit to Taiwan by meeting President Lee Teng-hui, bringing together in a Taipei government guesthouse the two individuals most derided by the Chinese government for trying to "split the motherland".

Afterwards the Dalai Lama said he believed his visit could promote "closer understanding" between Tibetans and Chinese. "The Tibetan problem is neither good for Tibet nor for China. We must find a mutual solution," he said.

Both sides have stressed that the six-day visit was a spiritual rather than political voyage, and the Tibetan leader has drawn huge crowds to his public prayer meetings. But political sensitivities have provided the backdrop to the trip. Taipei, like Peking, insists that Tibet is part of China.

The Dalai Lama has used the visit to stress his view that Tibet needs "genuine self-rule" rather than independence from China. "I believe very much in the spirit of `one country, two systems'," he said, referring to the policy under which Hong Kong will revert to China this summer. "Some critics in the Tibetan community question my position. Even my eldest brother expressed that my middle approach is actually selling Tibet's legitimate rights," he said.

The Dalai Lama's talks with President Lee, a devout Christian, revolved around religion, but the two men also discussed Tibetan refugees in Nepal and India, and the setting up of a liaison office in Taiwan.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded to the meeting by saying that the Dalai Lama had "moved about on the international stage for a long time in order to split the motherland. This time he went to Taiwan. It is very obvious he has his political goals. We have to ask why a small group of people in Taiwan welcome his activity there".