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HOPEFUL: Support groups launched a joint petition on Facebook for the Tibetan spiritual leader to come to Taiwan to attend a cross-strait forum on human rights.

Taipei: - Tibetan support groups on Tuesday petitioned for Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to attend a cross-strait human rights forum to discuss issues related to Tibet and democratization in China, the president of the Taiwan Friends of Tibet organization said.

A total of five groups, including the Taiwan Development and Cultural Exchange Association and the Taiwan Association for China's Human Rights, drafted a joint petition titled "A public invitation for the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan" on Facebook on Tuesday, calling for a visit by the spiritual leader to participate in the forum.

The invitation will be handed to the Dalai Lama through the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, said Sun Chi-pen (???), president of Taiwan Friends of Tibet and an associate professor at National Chiao Tung University.

The date for the forum has not yet been decided because the event's organizers are waiting to hear back from the Tibetan spiritual leader on his availability.

Commenting on the situation in Tibet, Sun said that since March last year, more than 30 cases of self-immolation by Tibetans in protest of the continued occupation of their country by China had occurred, claiming the lives of nearly 20 people.

"The rising number of self-immolations suggests that China's so-called ‘stability maintenance' policy in Tibet has only resulted in the intensification of the crackdown on Tibetans, making the situation worse in an already tense area," Sun said.

Sun said cross-strait interactions have continued to increase, with members of the Democratic Progressive Party also conducting visits to China for cross-strait communication.

However, if Taipei only centers its China policy on economic exchanges, while disregarding democracy and human rights and turns a blind eye to Beijing's authoritarianism, that would be an "awful and stupid" thing to do, Sun said.

"The Dalai Lama said during his visit to areas hit hardest by Typhoon Morakot in 2009 that only with China's democratization could the Tibetan issue be truly settled," Sun said. "He also expressed hopes that Taiwan could facilitate China's democratization, given its democratic achievements."

An awareness of democracy is growing in China, Sun added, as evidenced by the rising number of Chinese netizens who have denounced the nation's pervasive corruption problems and used the Internet as a platform to fight for their fundamental rights.

Translated by Stacy Hsu, staff writer

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