Dalai Lama welcome at ‘appropriate’ time: Taiwan president

December 5th, 2008 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Taipei, Dec 5 (DPA) Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou Friday said he welcomes Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to visit, but only when the time is “appropriate.”"When the timing is appropriate, we welcome him to visit Taiwan to engage in various religious activities because he has many worshippers in Taiwan,” said Ma, in an attempt to pacify a growing outcry over his recent hint of declining to host the Dalai Lama.

In a meeting with a group of Italian lawmakers, Ma said Taiwan welcomes all religious leaders to visit the island for religious activities.

He said the Dalai Lama, who has visited Taiwan twice, is highly respected by many worshippers on the island.

But at a news conference Wednesday for foreign journalists in Taipei, Ma, when asked if the island would host the exiled spiritual leader, bluntly said the timing was not appropriate for the Dalai Lama to visit.

The Dalai Lama had recently expressed his desire to visit Taiwan next year.

His response triggered an outcry by politicians in Taiwan, with parliamentarians of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) criticizing him for kowtowing to China, which sees the Dalai Lama as a “splittist.”

Parliament speaker Wang Jin-pyng of the ruling Nationalist Party asked Ma to reconsider his decision.

On Friday, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said she would cooperate with other religious groups in Taiwan to invite the Dalai Lama.

Before becoming president in May, Ma voiced support on several occasions for the pro-democracy movement in China and for the Dalai Lama’s fight for Tibetan autonomy.

The Dalai Lama, in exile in India since 1959, has close ties with Taiwan for political and religious reasons. He has some 500,000 disciples in Taiwan and opened his representative office in Taipei in 1998.

He drew large crowds when he visited Taiwan in 1997 and 2001 to lecture on Buddhism.

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