Apollo Chen urges Ma to give Dalai Lama another visa
Stacy Hsu / Staff reporter, Taipei Times | Mar 1, 2016
The lawmaker said the refusal to allow the Buddhist leader to visit has hurt the nation’s religious and cultural development
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) yesterday urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama so the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could visit before Ma’s term ends in May.
“The Dalai Lama visited Taiwan in 1997, 2001 and 2009. However, ever since his 2009 trip, the Ma administration has repeatedly denied a visa to the Dalai Lama because of China,” Chen said in a statement.
He said he has initiated a signature drive urging the Ma administration to issue a multiple entry visa to the Buddhist leader.
Taiwan is home to more than 1 million people who follow Tibetan Buddhism and 300 groups specializing in Tibetan Buddhism, and the religion has permeated into the lives of Taiwanese, the lawmaker said.
The Dalai Lama is seen as the foremost representative of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture, which makes the government’s refusal to allow him into the nation not only a loss to Buddhists in this county, but also to Taiwan’s religious and cultural development, Chen said.
“Moreover, such a decision has undermined the nation’s sense of autonomy and constitutes an act of self-belittlement,” Chen said.
In modern history, engagements between Han Chinese and Tibetans often ended in slaughter and wars, while Taiwan has been the only place where the two groups of people could achieve ethnic reconciliation, he said.
Given that the Dalai Lama is no longer the political leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile and has devoted himself entirely to religion and culture, the Ma administration has no reason to “say no to him,” Chen said.
“The Dalai Lama’s oft-stated hopes to visit Taiwan serve as a high recognition of the nation. There is absolutely no reason why we should deem this 80-year-old monk an irritant to cross-strait relations and shut him out,” he said.
The Dalai Lama’s most recent visit to Taiwan began on Aug. 30, 2009, just weeks after Typhoon Morakot wreaked havoc on southern parts of the island.
He had been invited by seven Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) mayors and county commissioners to hold religious services for Morakot victims.
Ma only approved the request for a visa for the Dalai Lama for that trip after the National Security Council met in a five-hour emergency meeting. The government had previously rejected a visa application in 2008, shortly after Ma took office.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected a visa application in November 2012, when the Dalai Lama had been invited by an international group to attend a conference in Taipei.
Then-premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) in March last year said the “nation’s benefits as a whole” should be taken into account when deciding whether to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama, after 15 Taiwanese groups had issued a joint invitation for him to visit. However, a visa application was not submitted at that time.
Additional reporting by staff writer