China on Wednesday warned Taiwan’s new government against allowing exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit, after a high-profile Taiwanese legislator invited him to the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.
China regards the 80-year-old monk as a separatist. Taiwan’s former president Ma Ying-jeou, who favoured closer economic ties with China, refused the Dalai Lama entry several times since his last visit to Taiwan in 2009.
On that occasion Ma did allow 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 China critic who was elected to parliament in January, invited the Dalai Lama when he met him in India last week.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news briefing in Beijing that the Dalai Lama “wears religious clothes to carry out separatist activities”.
“The intention of some forces in Taiwan to collude with separatists seeking ‘Tibet independence’ and to create disturbances will have a severe impact on relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Ma said. “We firmly oppose any form of visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama.”
Lim’s assistant Kenny Chang told Reuters that the Dalai Lama is highly respected in Taiwan.
“Lim is inviting him to visit Taiwan to share his ideas and religious philosophy,” Chang said.
On Tuesday, Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lee told lawmakers in parliament that if the Dalai Lama decides to come, the ministry will review the matter carefully, according to Taiwanese media.
The minister could not be reached immediately for comment.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, even as Tsai insists she wants to maintain peace with China.
In June, China stopped a communication mechanism with Taiwan because of the refusal of the new government to recognise the “one China” principle.
China claims Taiwan as its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.
Defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949.
The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Communist rule.
China has accused him of being a separatist, but the monk says he only wants genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland, which Chinese troops “peacefully liberated” in 1950.