The Dalai Lama Sparks Controversy In China, Taiwan

01/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"There's no need to dramatize things," said French President Nicholas Sarkozy, responding to China's criticism of his weekend meeting with the Dalai Lama. But the complaining nation is taking the perceived slight seriously, and the controversy is spreading.

After weeks of Chinese complaints and diplomatic actions related to the Dalai Lama's planned get-together with Sarkozy, Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou responded last week to the possibility of the Dalai Lama visiting Taiwan, saying "the timing isn't appropriate for that."

Newspapers in China and Taiwan acknowledge the volatility of the issue, and have expressed their views on these events.

China
Sarkozy-Dalai Lama meeting undermines political credibility (People's Daily*): In a move reminiscent of his pre-Beijing Olympics "political farce" -- which involved Sarkozy suggesting he wouldn't attend if he wasn't happy with China's "handling of the situation in Tibet" -- only "idiots" would believe the French president's Dalai Lama meeting wasn't "specially intended" to offend.

Political figures like Sarkozy in the west will never understand the sensitivity of [the] Tibet issue, nor can they understand why China opposes any forms of separatist activities by the Dalai Lama in any countries. China also opposes any foreign leader's contact with the ousted Tibetan spiritual leader. Regardless of Beijing's strong protest, Sarkozy stubbornly carried out the meeting, in a move that was thought to be provocative and dangerous. He must pay for it.

Taiwan
Putting a possible visit by the Dalai Lama on hold (The China Post): Taiwan's president has changed his tone from his recent political campaign, where he took a hardline stance on the China-Tibet situation.

Ma's change in attitude is understandable and justified by the changing political climate across the Taiwan Strait, when a thaw in relations began after Ma won the presidency in March. Hosting a visit by the Dalai Lama to Taiwan would anger Beijing and set back cross-strait ties that are still fragile. President Ma did not rule out a visit to Taiwan by the "separatist" in the future at a time deemed appropriate. He may have to wait until a change of political climate favorable for his visit to Taiwan, or after he has made peace with Beijing through ongoing negotiations between his representatives and Beijing officials.

Ma bows to China over Dalai Lama (Taipei Times): It is true that President Ma's position has transformed since his campaign for office. At the time, he "issued a statement in support of Tibetans and the Dalai Lama." Now, his actions suggest he is trying to curry favor with China's leadership.

[...] Ma is looking across the Taiwan Strait, hoping China will grant some favors to boost the economy. Under such circumstances, he would not dare offend Beijing by allowing the Dalai Lama to visit. [...] Taking Beijing as his master, Ma is acting like the chief executive of a Chinese special administrative region, or the puppet king of a vassal state. [...] Ma has ruled out a visit from the Dalai Lama. This may give people in other countries the impression that Taiwan has downgraded itself to a part of authoritarian China.

* State-owned and/or state-controlled publication.

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