Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama ended his sensitive Taiwan visit on Friday, leaving Taipei to mend the damage to relations with Beijing caused by his visit.
Hundreds of Tibetans and Taiwan disciples saw off the Dalai Lama at the Howard Plaza Hotel in Taipei, and hundreds more waited for him at Taoyuan International Airport outside Taipei.
At both the hotel and the airport terminal, dozens of supporters of Taiwan-China unification protested the Dalai Lama's visit, but police removed them by force.
As the Dalai Lama was escorted into the airport terminal by a horde of bodyguards and police, a reporter shouted, "Do you think you can return to Tibet?"
Living in exile in India since 1959 and still barred from going home because China fears he seeks Tibet's independence, the Dalai Lama turned his head and said, "We are always ready to return to Tibet. We are Tibetan, so of course we are. I am a Tibetan."
He then flew back to India, where he leads the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, northern India.
The Dalai Lama arrived on Sunday in Taiwan to bless the survivors of Typhoon Morakot, which left nearly 700 people dead after it hit the island August 8.
He visited typhoon disaster areas in southern Taiwan, comforted survivors and held a prayer meeting for typhoon victims attended by 15,000 people.
China twice protested the Dalai Lama's visit and warned Taipei that the visit would damage Taipei-Beijing ties, which have been improving since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008.
To retaliate against Taiwan for allowing the visit, China has cancelled or postponed several delegations' trips to Taiwan.
The latest postponements are the visit to Taiwan by a Chinese journalists' delegation and a delegation due to attend a seminar on protecting intellectual property rights.
Taiwan's ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) on Friday called on China to resume exchanges.
"The Dalai Lama's visit has had a negative impact on cross-strait ties. China has cancelled celebrations for launching direct flights on Monday and some other delegations," Chang Jung-kung, the KMT's deputy secretary-general, told reporters.
Chang said that there are several important events planned for October, including a high-level dialogue, the signing of a memorandum of understanding on financial cooperation, and discussions on signing a free-trade pact.
"We hope these exchanges can go on as scheduled. We hope the two sides can continue to show goodwill and resume normal exchanges," he noted.
The Dalai Lama previously visited Taiwan in 1997 and 2003 to promote Buddhism. Most Taiwanese are Buddhists.
Despite China's blockading the Dalai Lama's overseas travels, the Tibetan monk has a busy schedule.
According to the Dalai Lama's website, he is scheduled to visit the US, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand later this year to attend seminars and give talks on Buddhism.