BEIJING – China said Thursday that it "resolutely opposes" a decision by Taiwan's president to allow the Dalai Lama to visit the island.
A spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office said a visit by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, "in whatever form and capacity," would be condemned by China, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The spokesman, who was not named, said the invitation was "an attempt to sabotage the hard-earned good situation in cross-Strait relations."
Beijing has long vilified the Dalai Lama for what they say are his attempts to fight for independence in Tibet, which has been under Communist rule for decades.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday agreed to honor the invitation extended to the Dalai Lama by the leaders of seven local municipalities who wanted the spiritual leader to visit victims of Typhoon Morakot from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.
"The Dalai Lama could come to Taiwan to help rest the souls of the dead and also pray for the well-being of the survivors," Ma said.
Earlier this month, Morakot, the worst typhoon to hit the island in 50 years, killed at least 670 people.
The invitation from the leaders — all from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party — came as Ma faced criticism that he had botched the government's response to the storm.
The Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman in Beijing called the invitation "a plot" by Taiwanese opposition members, Xinhua reported.
"When people from all sectors on the mainland are lending a hand to help Taiwan reconstruct and overcome the typhoon disaster quickly, some DPP members have taken the chance to plot the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan," the spokesman was quoted as saying. "Obviously this is not for the sake of disaster relief."
Ma's decision surprised many because he has made a priority of seeking better relations with China. Just last December he nixed plans for a visit by the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader in what was deemed a move to placate Beijing.