Beijing on Wednesday warned Taipei not to allow exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit, after a high-profile Taiwanese legislator invited him to the island, a trip that would worsen already poor cross-strait ties.
Beijing regards the 80-year-old monk as a separatist. Taiwan’s former president, Ma Ying-jeou, who favoured close economic ties with the mainland, refused the Dalai Lama entry several times after his last visit to Taiwan in 2009.
On that occasion, Ma allowed him in but did not meet him.
Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen, elected in January, has not said whether the government would allow a visit by the Dalai Lama, who congratulated Tsai on her “remarkable” victory.
Freddy Lim, one of Taiwan’s most famous heavy-metal singers and an outspoken critic of Beijing, who was elected to parliament in January, invited the Dalai Lama when he met him in India last week.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama “wears religious clothes to carry out separatist activities”.
“The intention of some forces in Taiwan [is] to collude with separatists seeking Tibet independence and to create disturbances that will have a severe impact on relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Ma said. “We firmly oppose any form of visit.”
Lim’s assistant, Kenny Chang, said the Dalai Lama was highly respected in Taiwan.
“Lim is inviting him to visit Taiwan to share his ideas and religious philosophy,” Chang said.
On Tuesday, Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lee told lawmakers that if the Dalai Lama decided to come, the ministry would review the matter carefully, media reported.
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: “If he submits his [visa] application, our government will handle it based on relevant rules”. She did not elaborate.
Beijing is suspicious of Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, even as Tsai insists she wants to maintain peace with the mainland.
In June, the mainland stopped a communication mechanism with Taiwan because of the refusal of its government to recognise the “1992 consensus” over the “one China” principle, and relations have continued to deteriorate.
Tenzin Taklha, an aide to the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, the seat of a Tibetan government in exile, declined to comment when reached by telephone.
The Dalai Lama, who is visiting Europe, says he wants genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.