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December, 6, 2016

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MOFA silent on Chen-Dalai Lama meet

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) declined to confirm Tuesday whether former Foreign Minister Mark Chen (陳唐山) was scheduled to meet with the Dalai Lama at the Forum 2000 conference in Prague.

MOFA spokeswoman Eleanor Wang said Chen, who served as foreign minister from 2004 to 2006 under the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, is attending the international conference as a representative of President Tsai Ing-wen.

Amid local media reports that Chen was planning to meet with the Dalai Lama, who had been invited to the forum to deliver a speech on Wednesday, Wang said the ministry had no comment.

"We have no comment on possible interactions between invited guests during the forum," she added.

Wang's comments came after a report made by Chinese-language online news provider Storm Media (風傳媒) late Monday that Chen would hold a one-on-one meeting with the Dalai Lama during the forum, which is scheduled for Oct. 16-19.

The report did not disclose whether Chen would officially invite the exiled spiritual leader to visit Taiwan during the meeting.

At a separate press event, Presidential Office Spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said Taiwan's president has been invited to attend the annual forum every year since 1998.

This year, Tsai decided to send Chen because, as a former foreign minister, he is familiar with diplomatic affairs, Huang said.

Huang also would not confirm whether Chen would meet with the Dalai Lama, or whether he would invite the iconic religious leader to visit Taiwan on behalf of Tsai.

Opposition New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) extended an invitation during his visit to the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, India on Sept. 5.

Lim and said the spiritual leader had replied that he would be very glad to visit Taiwan again.

Huang said Taiwan's government had not received an application for the possible visit.

The government will handle such an application in accordance with related rules and with mutual respect once it has received the application, Huang said.

The Dalai Lama's last trip to Taiwan was in 2009, when he visited the country to pray for survivors and victims of deadly Typhoon Morakot.

According to its official site, since 1997, Forum 2000 has organized annual conferences which have attracted a number of prominent thought leaders, Nobel laureates, former and acting politicians, business leaders and other individuals, whose common denominative is experience bearing responsibility."

According to MOFA, Chen was scheduled to deliver an address on Taiwan's efforts on gender equality during the forum's "Women as Agents of Social Change" section.

Former Vice President Annett Lu (呂秀蓮) is also invited to join this year's forum.

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