China is strongly opposed to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan, an official said on Monday amid reports that Taiwanese politicians were planning to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader to the island country claimed by Beijing.
A senior official from the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) voiced his opposition to the visit at a news conference during the National People’s Congress (NPC) or the annual parliament session.
The Dalai Lama – branded a separatist by China – is based at Dharamshala in India. He last visited democratic Taiwan in 2009, during the rule of outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou. Ma allowed the Tibetan leader to visit the country but did not personally meet him.
Since then, the Dalai Lama’s entry to Taiwan has been refused several times. That might change after President-elect Tsai Ing-wen takes over in May and reports have indicated the Dalai Lama might visit Taiwan around the time of the country’s National Day on October 10.
Such a visit would have China fuming.
“We strongly oppose anyone who is in power (in Taiwan) to invite the Dalai Lama to visit the island,” said Padma Choling, chairperson of the standing committee of Tibet’s regional people’s congress.
“Everyone clearly knows what kind of person the Dalai Lama is,” he said. “The Dalai Lama must give up his secessionist stance and stop all activities to split the motherland.”
Choling, also an NPC deputy, said China’s attitude “is consistent”.
The Dalai Lama had congratulated Tsai after she won the election earlier this year, calling the victory “remarkable”. He was quoted by Reuters as saying, “It is indeed encouraging to see how firmly rooted democracy has become in Taiwan.
“It is a model and source of inspiration to those who aspire (to) freedom and accountable leadership.”
China’s opposition to the visit came after President Xi Jinping warned against “Taiwan’s independence” at a NPC meeting over the weekend. “We will resolutely contain ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist activities in any form,” Xi told legislators.
“We will safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and never allow the historical tragedy of national secession to happen again,” he said. “Our policy toward Taiwan is clear and consistent, and it will not change along with the change in Taiwan’s political situation.”