August 28, 2009 / 11:45 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX-Facts about the Dalai Lama, China and Taiwan

TAIPEI, Aug 28 (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader reviled by China as a separatist, is set to visit Taiwan next week. [ID:nTP291457])

Following are key facts about the Dalai Lama, China and Taiwan:

- Tibetan Buddhism holds that the soul of a high monk or "living Buddha" is reincarnated after his death and the resulting "soul boy" can be found through the interpretation of arcane signs.

- After the death of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1934, Tibetan officials asked local authorities to look out for remarkable baby boys with characteristics including large ears, tiger-striped legs and palms bearing the pattern of a sea-shell.

- In 1937, the 14th Dalai Lama was discovered as a two-year old named Lhamo Dhondup, in Taktser village, in eastern Qinghai province, a region called Amdo by Tibetans.

- The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, and has suggested his reincarnation may be found outside China. Chinese leaders maintain that the next Dalai Lama will be approved by them.

- A visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama brings together two of China’s most sensitive territorial claims — over Tibet and self-ruled Taiwan, and thus strikes a raw nerve in Beijing.

- China brands him a dangerous "splittist", or separatist, and is furious with his popularity in the West. Angry at his trip to Europe last year, especially his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, China called off a summit with the European Union. The Dalai Lama says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for Tibet.

- China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, through its "one China" policy, since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

- China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, is recognised by about 170 countries. Only 23 recognise Taiwan and China has continually blocked the island’s bid to join the United Nations.

- Relations across the Taiwan Strait, once one of the hottest flashpoints in Asia, have improved since the Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, was voted back to power and China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office last year.

- The Dalai Lama visited Taiwan in 1997 and 2001. Ma permitted another visit in a populist move amid perceptions that he reacted too slowly to the island’s worst typhoon in 50 years. The visit is due to begin on Sunday.

Sources: Reuters; "The Tibet-China Conflict: History and Polemics" by Elliot Sperling; "Tibet — Its Ownership and Human Rights Situation, by China’s State Council; "Modern China: A Companion to a Rising Power" by Graham Hutchings.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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