On Saturday 22 March 1997, His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived in the southern port-city of Kaohsiung and received a tumultuous welcome by thousands of Taiwanese.
Although the visit was officially announced to be religious in nature, it has major political significance, since it brings Tibetans and Taiwanese together, and will strengthen the bonds and understanding of each other's cause.
This was abundantly clear on Saturday, March 22nd, when the Dalai Lama was welcomed in Kaohsiung by a sea of Tibet's snow-lion flags and by signs endorsing independence for both Taiwan and Tibet. One sign read: "By saying no to China, the Dalai Lama is a shining example for Lee Teng-hui" -- a subtle hint to President Lee, who has been hesitant to endorse Taiwan's independence.
On Thursday, 27 March, the Dalai Lama will mee with President Lee in Taipei. However, he cancelled a planned speech to the democratically-elected Legislative Yuan.
In its usual heavy-handed language, the Communist regime in Beijing denounced the visit as being "a splittist collusion" by the Dalai Lama and Lee Teng-hui to "split the motherland."
The visit also draws attention to the Kuomintang's outdated claim that it still holds sovereignty over Tibet. The KMT authorities still maintain a Tibetan and Mongolian Affairs Commission, which presumably makes decisions regarding those two countries. The democratic opposition of the DPP and Taiwan Independence Party have argued that the Commission is hopelessly out of date, and should be discarded.
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