29 Aug 2009

China critical of Taiwan's invitation to Dalai Lama

4:06 pm on 29 August 2009

China has criticised Taiwan for inviting the Dalai Lama to come and comfort survivors of Typhoon Morakot.

President Ma Ying-jeou has agreed to a request from the opposition that the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader be invited to Taiwan in the aftermath of the typhoon, which caused the deaths of at least 500 people.

But the Chinese government says it remains resolutely opposed to any visit by the Dalai Lama, who, it claims, has always engaged in "separatist activities" under the pretext of religion.

It says Taiwanese opposition politicians have ulterior motives in asking President Ma, who is pro-Beijing, to approve the visit.

Last year, Mr Ma refused to permit a visit by the Dalai Lama, saying the timing was not right, as his government was working to improve relations with Beijing.

But Typhoon Morakot has left Mr Ma in a difficult position. His administration has been criticised for its slow and inefficient response to the catastrophe, and his popularity has slumped to a record low.