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China punishes Taiwan over Dalai Lama visit
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2009-08-31 07:38 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – China is expressing its displeasure with the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan by staying away from the Taipei Deaflympics opening ceremony, downplaying the launch of regular direct flights, and canceling a trip by a financial delegation, reports said Monday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader’s trip at the invitation of opposition Democratic Progressive Party leaders from the typhoon disaster areas provoked anger in Beijing, which sees the event as a plot by Taiwanese and Tibetan independence supporters.

While China did not officially announce any sanctions, several changes were attributed to Beijing’s anger over the Dalai Lama trip.

The Taipei City Government confirmed Monday that the Chinese team would not take part in the opening ceremony of the Taipei Deaflympics this coming Saturday.

Emile Sheng, the chief executive officer of the organizing committee, lashed out at Kaohsiung Mayor Chen. She visited Beijing before the Kaohsiung World Games to increase understanding on China’s part, but now she had invited the Dalai Lama to Taiwan just before the Deaflympics, creating problems for Taipei, he said.

The DPP said Sheng should not blame Chen, since China also boycotted the World Games opening because it doesn’t recognize Taiwan’s political leaders as such. President Ma Ying-jeou declared the games open.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin later downplayed the affair, saying the Dalai Lama’s visit and the timing of the Chinese team’s absence from the Deaflympics opening were just a coincidence.

Monday also marked the official first day of regular direct flights between China and Taiwan, but on the Chinese side, launch ceremonies were completely canceled, reports said.

The launch of connections from cities like Xi’an, Changsha and Shenyang should have been attended by prominent local officials like vice governors or higher, but instead, the airlines were informed on Sunday that the ceremonies would not take place, according to media reports. The regular flights still started on schedule, but without any festivities.

Since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May last year, Taiwan and China completed three rounds of negotiations which each time saw progress on flights between the two. In July last year, direct charter flights began operating on weekends, with the rest of the week following after agreements signed in Taipei in November.

The regular flights starting Monday were the result of an accord reached during the most recent round of talks, in Nanjing last April.

A delegation of financial officials expected in Taipei for a securities conference on Tuesday canceled its trip, the Chinese-language United Evening News reported Monday.

The no.2 official at the People’s Bank of China, Su Ning, was planning to arrive at the head of 24 prominent officials, but their change of heart sank the whole conference, the paper said.

Taiwanese government officials and leaders of the country’s private financial sector had been looking forward to exchange views with their counterparts from China, according to the paper.

The organizers later said the trip and the conference had been delayed by one week for “technical reasons.” When the Chinese bankers arrive, the Tibetan leader will already have left Taiwan. His departure is scheduled for Friday, September 4.

Fears of Chinese interference already began before the Dalai Lama’s arrival late on Sunday. The cancellation of an international news conference originally scheduled for Monday morning, officially to allow the Buddhist leader to spend more time in the typhoon-devastated villages, was also seen as the result of Chinese pressure.

A meeting planned for a Kaohsiung sports stadium was changed to his hotel, while a speech at a stadium in Taoyuan County was canceled altogether under pressure from the government, critics said. The Presidential Office denied any involvement in the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s schedule.

Critics blamed leaders of the ruling Kuomintang for caving in to pressure from China. In return, KMT Vice Chairman Wu Den-yih criticized Kaohsiung Mayor Chen for having political motives in inviting the Dalai Lama. A spokesman for Chen denied the allegation, saying it was the KMT which was politicizing the trip.

Wu said Chinese provincial leaders had canceled or postponed visits to spend millions on Taiwanese products because of Chen’s actions.

Taiwan Affairs Office Chairman Wang Yi, the Chinese government official in charge of Taiwan policies, stayed away from a “Taiwan Week” and a meeting with Taiwanese investors in China’s northeastern province of Liaoning, cable station TVBS reported.

The United Evening News said China was watching the Dalai Lama’s words during his visit, and could take more drastic action, such as delaying discussion of Taiwan’s request for an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and cutting the number of tourists.

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