Dalai Lama dilemma for Tsai Ing-wen

BEIJING/TAIPEI • Taiwan President-elect Tsai Ing-wen's diplomatic honeymoon with China could be short-lived if she allows the Dalai Lama to visit the island that Beijing claims as its own, two senior political sources said.

China regards Tibet's exiled spiritual leader as a separatist, and outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou has refused the Dalai Lama entry several times since his last visit to Taiwan in 2009.

With invitations pending from Buddhist groups likely to be renewed after Ms Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) easily won elections in January, the incoming leader faces a dilemma, said a Taiwanese source close to the DPP who requested anonymity, and another with direct knowledge of the matter.

"The Dalai Lama could visit as early as around National Day," said the source close to the DPP, referring to Oct 10.

Ms Tsai, who takes office on May 20, must decide whether to let the Dalai Lama in and risk riling China when tensions in the region have already been raised over rival claims in the South China Sea. Since sweeping to victory, she has vowed to seek to maintain the "status quo of peace and stability" with China. Since the election, Beijing has also warned against any moves towards formal independence and said it would defend its sovereignty.

Ms Tsai could seek a compromise, sources said, by convincing Beijing to keep dialogue open, rather than stonewalling her, in exchange for allowing the Dalai Lama to visit but not meeting him one-on-one.

The DPP said it was unaware of any invitation for the Dalai Lama to visit. China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not respond to a request for comment.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2016, with the headline 'Dalai Lama dilemma for Tsai Ing-wen'. Print Edition | Subscribe