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The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"China's criticisms of the Dalai Lama's visit have done nothing to dent his popularity"
 real 56k

Monday, 2 April, 2001, 06:41 GMT 07:41 UK
Dalai Lama to meet activist
Dalai Lama and Annette Lu
The Dalai Lama met Taiwan's vice-president Annette Lu
The Dalai Lama's travel plans on Monday include a chat with a former Taiwan independence activist - a meeting that the Tibetan spiritual leader's spokesman insists is non-political.

China has been accusing the Dalai Lama of trying to whip up anti-China sentiments during his 10-day trip to Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be a breakaway province.

The Tibetan religious leader's meeting with Chen Tan-sun, the magistrate of southern Tainan County, could feed Beijing's suspicions.

Mr Chen was once an active campaigner for Taiwan independence and a leader of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, which supports independence for the island.

The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama insists he is visiting Taiwan only for religious reasons

But like many other former independence supporters, Mr Chen appears to have softened his views and is not as active as before in the independence cause.

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama, said that Mr Chen was "a very devout Buddhist" and that the meeting would focus on spiritual matters.

He added that the Dalai Lama had met Mr Chen before in the US and considers him a friend.

The Dalai Lama, who arrived on Saturday, has repeatedly said that he came to Taiwan to lecture about Buddhism and spirituality - not to cause problems for China.

Stadium crowd

Large crowds turned out on Sunday to hear him speak on the first full day of his visit.

About 30,000 people - Taiwanese citizens and Tibetans in exile - bought tickets to attend the event at the Linkou stadium in the capital, Taipei.

Taiwan's Vice-President, Annette Lu, shared a stage with the Dalai Lama and appealed for peace and understanding from Beijing.

Ms Lu, whom China has condemned for describing Taiwan and China as "close neighbours but distant relatives", thanked the Dalai Lama for braving China's disapproval and showing concern for Taiwan.

Real happiness

The Dalai Lama told the crowd that real happiness came from "a sense of satisfaction in the heart", not physical comfort.

He said there was a positive side to any bad experience. It was unfortunate that he had lost his homeland, he said, but he had gained the opportunity to meet many people and learn from them.

The Dalai Lama insists he is visiting the island only for religious reasons, although on Thursday, he will visit Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and on Friday he will chat with former President Lee Teng-hui.

A BBC correspondent in Taipei says China, which has protested against the Dalai Lama's presence in Taiwan, will be further angered to see him greeted like a head of state.

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Dalai Lama braves Chinese protests
28 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
China intensifies anti-Dalai Lama campaign
11 Mar 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Tibetans keep their faith
18 Feb 00 | South Asia
Dalai Lama's appeal for Tibet
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