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Taiwan silent on expected meetings with Dalai Lama

March 25, 1997
Web posted at: 4:39 p.m. EST (2139 GMT)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- The Dalai Lama witnessed an interfaith gathering of 20,000 people at a Taiwanese stadium on Tuesday as the government remained tight-lipped on expected meetings between officials and the exiled Tibetan leader.

The Dalai Lama began the fourth day of his "enlightenment" tour in Taiwan with an event in the city of Taoyuan that drew representatives from the island nation's many religious groups. It was the second of three stadium-sized "enlightenment meetings" on the Dalai Lama's six-day tour.

This is the first visit to Taiwan by the 61-year-old Buddhist monk, who is revered as a god-king by his followers in Tibet. The trip has drawn strong objections from China, which views both Tibet and Taiwan as its rightful territory.

The Dalai Lama went into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The mainland government refers to him and Taiwan government officials as "splittists" intent on breaking away from the mainland. The Taiwan government is the remnant of Nationalist forces defeated by the Communists in a civil war that ended in 1949.

On Monday, the Dalai Lama told reporters in Taipei that he wanted self-rule for Tibet, rather than full independence from China. Beijing Tuesday continued a series of attacks, scorning the Dalai Lama's statement.

Taiwanese government officials were still tight-lipped on whether President Lee Teng-hui or other top officials would meet with the Dalai Lama. Given the mainland government's opposition to the visit, such meetings could affect relations between Taipei and Beijing.

The Government Information Office said it knew nothing about a report in the United Evening News that Vice President Lien Chan would dine with the Dalai Lama on Wednesday, in preparation for a Thursday meeting between the exiled Tibetan leader and President Lee.

The Dalai Lama has said he hoped to discuss "spiritual reforms" with President Lee.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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