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Time will tell if Taiwan visit hurt China ties: Dalai Lama

world Updated: Sep 03, 2009 15:39 IST
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The Dalai Lama said on Thursday it was too early to say if his ongoing visit to Taiwan had hurt the island's ties with China, but a survey nevertheless showed widespread support here for the trip.

"We wait another six months or one year, then we will know," Tibet's exiled spiritual leader told Taiwan Public Television Service about the impact of his five-day tour of Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.

The Dalai Lama, seen by China as a dangerous separatist bent on Tibetan independence, has said repeatedly his aim is to provide consolation after Typhoon Morakot, which hit Taiwan last month killing at least 613 people.

In the TV interview he brushed aside speculation that the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which favours independence from China, had invited him just to embarrass the Beijing-friendly government in Taipei.

"Sometimes those so-called experts... create speculation like that. That's quite normal," he said.

As the Dalai Lama spent his first full day in Taipei, hundreds of followers crowded the lobby of downtown Howard Plaza Hotel while waiting their turn to be brought face-to-face with the exiled spiritual leader.

"He has no plans to meet with political figures," said Dawa Tsering, chairman of the Tibet Religious Foundation of the Dalai Lama in Taiwan, which is organising the trip.

China has announced twice it opposes the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan, an island which Beijing claims as its own although it has governed itself for six decades.

The Chinese government has further signalled its displeasure by cancelling several official delegations to Taiwan, including one led by a deputy central bank governor.

In an apparent bid to avoid upsetting China further, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and several other members of the ruling Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party have said they have no plans to meet the Dalai Lama.

The visit, which ends Friday, has been more low key than two previous trips to Taiwan, in 1997 and 2001, when he met several political leaders.

Even so, surveys suggested backing for the ongoing visit among Taiwan residents.

The trip was supported by 75.4 percent of 709 respondents asked by the Public Survey Centre of the opposition DPP. According to the same poll, 18.1 percent were against.

A poll carried out in late August by Apple Daily, a Taipei-based newspaper, showed 59.9 percent supported the visit, with 26 percent against.

In a survey conducted by television network TVBS, 38 percent thought the timing of the trip was right, while 34 percent believed it was not.

As the Dalai Lama started receiving visitors on Thursday, dozens of protesters favouring Taiwan reunification with China appeared opposite his hotel.

"Give priority to typhoon relief. Oppose political manipulation," they chanted, as they faced a sizeable police presence.

"We want the Dalai Lama to leave Taiwan as soon as possible," said Tang Shu, the leader of the protest.

Before peacefully dispersing, the protesters handed a letter blasting the visit as a "political provocation" to a representative of the Dalai Lama.