China, Taiwan in spat over Buddhist leader’s funeral

Beijing, Feb 12 (EFE).- China and Taiwan have exchanged criticism after a Chinese delegation was unable to travel to the self-governing island to attend the funeral of influential Buddhist teacher Hsing Yun.

Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian accused Taipei’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in a statement of blocking a 38-member delegation invited by the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order, founded by the late Hsing, who died on Feb. 5 at the age of 95.

The delegation, which was due to arrive on the island on Saturday and had planned to stay until Tuesday, was made up of representatives from the Taiwan Affairs Office, the National Religious Affairs Administration, the Buddhist Association of China and officials from the province of Jiangsu.

Mainland China will pay tribute Sunday to the Buddhist leader at the temple he helped develop in Yixing, Jiangsu, Xinhua said.

However, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said the government did not approve the applications of 12 Chinese officials because they did not follow the necessary procedures, which in the case of Chinese government representatives include obtaining a permit from the MAC.

An unnamed MAC official quoted by Taiwan’s state news agency CNA said the 12 officials had not applied to go to Taiwan, but simply “relayed” their travel plans, and that it was “regrettable” they had blamed Taiwan when they should have followed procedures.

The department said 120 Chinese citizens have obtained the necessary permission to attend the funeral, including relatives and friends of the Buddhist master, followers of the order and representatives of religious groups.

Taiwan is currently not allowing widespread entry of Chinese tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but provides exceptions in special cases, including religious affairs, as long as it is approved by the island’s immigration agency.

The funeral is expected to be attended by both Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and the leader of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, Eric Chu, reports CNA.

Master Hsing Yun, born in 1927 in Jiangsu, moved to Taiwan in 1949 and gradually gained influence, reaching millions of followers in the 300 temples he founded around the world.

In addition to his religious activity, Fo Guang Shan has expanded his activities into fields such as education, humanitarian work, and the media.

Hsing left the leadership of the order in 1985 but remained involved in its activities, also maintaining a political profile that led him to comment repeatedly on Taiwanese news.

The late teacher was a KMT adviser and member and was part of the party’s delegation that traveled to Beijing in 2013 and 2014 to meet China’s President Xi Jinping.

China considers Taiwan a rebel province and has claimed its sovereignty since KMT nationalists withdrew from the island in 1949 after losing the civil war. EFE


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