TAO spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian said the group – which also included officials from Jiangsu province, the State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Buddhist Association of China – was planning to leave on Saturday and return on Tuesday but the visit had to be called off “due to the obstruction” of the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party authorities.
Zhu said the group applied to make the trip through “normal channels” with help Fo Guang Shan and arrived at an airport in Beijing on Saturday morning for departure but the trip was abandoned.
“Due to Taiwan’s obstruction, the condolence group could not make the trip,” she said, without giving details.
“Disregarding basic humanitarianism, the DPP authorities rudely refused the mainland condolence group permission to go to Taiwan.
“This means Master Hsing Yun’s funeral cannot be held successfully, seriously hurting the feelings of most believers in Taiwan’s Fo Guang Shan. [The decision] will not receive popular support.”
Zhu said the delegation would instead pay tribute to Hsing Yun at Dajue Temple in Yixing, Jiangsu province, on Sunday.
Chiu Chui-cheng, the outgoing vice-chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said some permits had been granted but there were security concerns about the TAO officials.
Chiu said that when Fo Guang Shan applied for the permits on behalf of Hsing Yun’s relatives, friends, worshippers and other religious personnel, the TAO did not notify the MAC directly that it would send its own group.
“Still, we approved permits for 26 mainland officials. And for the rest of the 12 active officials, because they were targeted and threatened by some Taiwanese protest groups during their previous visits to Taiwan, we need to discuss the safety issue and other details with the mainland side directly before we can issue them visit permits,” he said.
“But so far we have yet to receive a response.”
He said the Taiwanese authorities had to discuss security issues to ensure the personal safety of the officials during their visit.
Chiu added that the TAO announced on Friday night that none of the 38 members of the group would go.
He also said 120 worshippers, religious leaders and members of other civilian groups from Hong Kong and the mainland were allowed entry to attend Sunday’s ceremony.
“They will come and attend the ceremony as scheduled,” he said.
In a statement on Saturday, the MAC said Fo Guang Shan conveyed the TAO’s decision on Friday night, saying the office decided to cancel the visit of the whole group because some members who were active officials did not get permission and they would only go as a group.
It said it hoped the TAO would contact MAC through “existing channels” for better arrangements for their trip.
The MAC also accused Beijing of “political manipulation”.
“It is hoped that the mainland side will stop its political manipulation and respect the contact and communication mechanism established by the two sides with a pragmatic attitude, so as to facilitate the accumulation of goodwill and positive interaction between the two sides,” it said.
A day earlier, the MAC said it denied a request by Beijing’s former top religious affairs official, Ye Xiaowen, to visit Taiwan for the commemorations, saying “Ye has been accused by civil groups of being involved in religious persecution”.
It said social order considerations were also a factor, given that Ye’s previous visit to Taiwan for the 2009 World Buddhist Forum had sparked widespread public protests.
To avoid unnecessary social disruption and to ensure the memorial service proceeded smoothly, Ye would not be allowed to enter Taiwan, the MAC said.
China News Service and other state media published an article by Ye in which he said the rejection “disregarded humanitarianism” and amounted to “political manipulation”.
Additional reporting by Lawrence Chung