April 2, 2006

China may let Dalai Lama visit, eyes ties with Vatican

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - China may approve a visit by the Dalai
Lama, as long as he abandons ideas of independence for Tibet,
and establish diplomatic ties with the Vatican if it first
drops links with Taiwan, the country's top religious official
was quoted on Monday as saying.

The remarks by Ye Xiaowen, director of the cabinet's State
Bureau of Religious Affairs, come just weeks before a summit in
Washington between Chinese President Hu Jintao and his U.S.
counterpart, George W. Bush, a devout Christian who prodded
China to allow greater religious freedom when he visited last

The Dalai Lama said last month he wanted to go to China to
visit Buddhist landmarks and witness the economic progress the
Asian powerhouse has made in recent years. Ye appeared
welcoming. "As long as the Dalai Lama makes clear that he has
completely abandoned Tibetan 'independence', it is not
impossible for us to consider his visit," Ye told the China
Daily, the government's English-language mouthpiece. "We can
discuss it."

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 when
he fled after a failed uprising against Communist rule nine
years after the takeover of his Himalayan homeland.

The Tibetan leader has reiterated his "Middle Way" position
that seeks greater autonomy for Tibet but not independence.

However, Ye dismissed the Dalai Lama's overtures saying
that he "has failed to deliver a clear message on his stance."

China is suspicious of the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize
winner who is revered by and rubs shoulders with foreign

Talks between the Dalai Lama's envoys and China resumed in
2002, but have made little substantial progress.

In a sign of greater religious tolerance, Zhejiang province
in China's east coast will host the World Buddhist Forum on
April 13-16 -- the first international religious meeting since
the atheist Communists swept to power in 1949.

On the issue of forging diplomatic relations with the
Vatican, Ye said the Holy See must meet two conditions -- break
off ties with self-ruled democratic Taiwan which Beijing claims
as its own and refrain from meddling in China's internal

"We can establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican
very soon if the two principles are accepted," Ye said. "But it
is very hard for us to do so if the two principles are

China argues that its Chinese Patriotic Catholic
Association, not the Vatican, has the sole right to appoint