By Ralph Jennings
The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader branded by Beijing as a separatist, said on Thursday he was ready to negotiate with China on issues concerning his homeland but wanted to see a "green light."
"Our position is very clear. We are always ready (to negotiate) as long as we get a green light from China," the Dalai Lama told Reuters in Taipei, a day before he was set to leave Taiwan after praying for victims of a recent deadly typhoon.
He said China had given no green light for talks "so far."
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Beijing calls him a "splittist" who seeks to separate nearly a quarter of the land mass of the People's Republic of China. The Dalai Lama denies the charge and says he seeks greater rights, including religious freedom and autonomy, for Tibetans.
Chinese officials and representatives of the Dalai Lama have held secretive talks on the Tibet question intermittently since 1979. The last round in November finished with both sides blaming each other for a lack of progress.
The Dalai Lama's August 30-September 4 visit to Taiwan has focused on prayers for victims of a typhoon that killed up to 745 people last month, religious talks and meetings with local Tibetans.
He told local television it was too early to know whether his travels had hurt Taiwan's own relations with China, a historic political rival that has threatened to take the island by force.
"No sign of manipulation around my place, my visit, I do not think," he told Public Television Service. "But then sometimes, the so called ... experts, always they say some speculation like that, that is quite normal."
Beijing has avoided criticizing Taiwan's president, who is friendly to China and permitted the Dalai Lama's visit only under pressure from opposition leaders, but has delayed some exchanges and canceled minor events with Taiwan.
It's "too early to tell," and would take six to 12 months to find out whether the visit hurts Taiwan-China relations, the Dalai Lama told the television station. He has visited Taiwan twice before.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to the island.
Taiwan has worked with China since mid-2008 to ease hostilities by establishing trade and transit links.
Dozens of rowdy protesters from a coalition of political groups stood outside the Dalai Lama's Taipei hotel on Wednesday and Thursday demanding he leave Taiwan early.
"There's definitely a negative impact on ties with China. How deep it goes we must wait to see," said protest organizer Wang Chuan-ping.
"If there weren't voices calling for an independent Tibet and an independent Taiwan, we'd welcome the Dalai Lama."
In a recent sign of China's sensitivity toward Tibet, Tibetan documentary maker Dhondup Wangchen is awaiting trial for "inciting separatism" in Qinghai province, which is partly ethnic Tibetan, according to a petition obtained by Reuters.