August 31, 2009
The Dalai Lama arrived at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport late Sunday night to a mixed reception, according to the Taiwan News. His reception in the south, however, where he has much more support and where government opposition is strongest, was far more enthusiastic. According to the News:
The Dalai Lama was warmly greeted at Zuoying Station by a huge crowd that had been waiting there long before he arrived. People waved "hada" and shouted the Tibetan greeting "zhaxidele." At around 1: 15 a.m., the Dalai Lama arrived at his hotel where another huge crowd was waiting, but he was whisked into the hotel and to his room by a side door.
The New York Times reports on the Dalai Lama's insistence that his trip is not about politics:
"I'm very, very strict, (the trip is of a) non-political nature," the Dalai Lama told reporters, appearing to try to reassure Beijing.
Still, his initial address to the Taiwanese is sure to rankle the mainland as much as the visit itself. And it does seem to contain a political message:
"We are not seeking separation for Taiwan, but the fate of Taiwan depends on the more than 20 million people. You are enjoying democracy and that you must preserve," he said. "I myself am totally dedicated to the promotion of democracy."
As expected, China, which considers the Dalai Lama a "splittist," denounced the visit and has made no bones about it with this most recent statement, reported by the Times:
"We resolutely oppose this and our position is firm and clear," [a] spokesman said. "The Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan is bound to have a negative influence on the relations between the mainland and Taiwan."
Still, there are subtle signs that China does not want to take this further, as the Times reports, and is perhaps letting the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) off the hook :
By not blaming [Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou] or the KMT, Beijing may have indicated that it does not wish to escalate the dispute in which China's two most sensitive territorial issues, Tibet and Taiwan, coincide.
For now, the Chinese seem to be reserving their harshest criticism for the Democratic Progressive Party, which extended the invitation to His Holiness, potentially undermining improving relations between the two governments.