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September 23, 2017

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Foreign affairs ministry rejects proposal to invite Dalai Lama

The foreign ministry yesterday confirmed that it has denied a proposal to invite the Dalai Lama to Taiwan, citing poor timing as the main reason.

"After an internal evaluation, we decided that now is not an appropriate time to have the Dalai Lama visit Taiwan," Deputy Foreign Minister Simon Ko said at a legislative hearing when asked by opposition lawmakers to confirm the decision.

Ko, however, failed to make clear when a more appropriate time for a visit would be. He also failed to give any further details on the decision.

The deputy minister's response immediately drew heavy fire from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators, who accused MOFA of bowing to Chinese pressure to block the visit of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, seen by Beijing as a "splittist."

DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang alleged that MOFA's decision to deny the Tibetan spiritual leader a visa was made under instructions from the Presidential Office.

Ko denied the allegations, saying that it is within MOFA's jurisdiction to screen visa applications.

The decision was made by the ministry alone, he said, denying that the ministry came under pressure from Beijing or high-ranking Taiwanese government officials.

Joseph Ma (馬鍾麟), a senior officer on MOFA's NGO Affairs Committee, which was responsible for screening the application, said during the hearing yesterday that the decision was made in the national interest.

The hearing was held the same day a Chinese-language report quoted sources as saying that MOFA recently rejected a proposal made by the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW International) to invite the Dalai Lama to Taiwan for a conference to be held next month in Taipei.

In a letter addressed to BPW International President Freda Miriklis, Foreign Minister David Lin said his ministry welcomes the Tibetan leader for a trip to Taiwan but "we need to arrange a more opportune time for his visit," the Apple Daily said.

The BPW Asia Pacific Regional Conference 2012 is slated to be held at Taipei's Grand Hotel Dec. 1-3.

BPW Taiwan, founded by former Vice President Annette Lu in 2008, is organizing the conference and was behind the plan to invite the Dalai Lama to attend.

The Buddhist leader visited Taiwan in 1997, 2001 and 2009.

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