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Taiwan asked by China to cancel Dalai Lama events: MP

world Updated: Sep 02, 2009 13:08 IST

Reuters
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Taiwan officials have asked the Dalai Lama to cancel public speeches and media events on the island under pressure from an angry China, which fears he will talk politics, a Tibetan legislator said on Wednesday.

Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, has been working with China since mid-2009 to ease 60 years of hostilities by establishing trade and transit links.

The visiting Tibetan spiritual leader, reviled by China as a separatist, was asked to cancel a news conference, a public speech for 10,000 people, interview requests and abandon any hopes of meeting Taiwan's top leaders, said Khedroob Thondup, a Taipei-based parliamentarian in-exile close to the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama, in Taiwan to comfort victims of a typhoon that killed up to 745 people last month, has avoided political comments during public prayers and meetings with local officials in the southern city of Kaohsiung.

"Beijing leaders are worried about His Holiness making any speaking engagements," Thondup told Reuters. "The Taiwan government has gone out of its way to listen.

"But this is not Communist Taiwan, it's democratic Taiwan," he said. The Dalai Lama would avoid "embarrassing" the host, Thondup said.

China had not asked Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou to make the Dalai Lama restrict his events, presidential spokesman Tony Wang said.

"The Dalai Lama's itinerary is entirely his own decision, and the presidential office respects his decision," Wang said.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He has visited Taiwan twice before.

Beijing calls him a "splittist" who seeks to separate nearly a quarter of the land mass of the People's Republic of China. The Dalai Lama denies the charge and says he seeks greater rights, including religious freedom and autonomy, for Tibetans.

At a news conference in Beijing, Tibet Vice-Governor Baima Chilin lashed out at the Dalai Lama again on Wednesday. "He still engages in separatist activities against the motherland," Baima Chilin said. "He fled from China about 50 years ago, but since then he has never stopped misleading the public and misleading the media."

Beijing has avoided criticizing Ma, who is friendly to China and permitted the Dalai Lama's visit under pressure from opposition leaders. But China has delayed exchanges and canceled minor events with Taiwan.