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Meizhou Mazu delegation from China denied entry to Taiwan

11/30/2023 09:15 PM
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Worshippers take photos of a statue of sea goddess Mazu from Meizhou, China during her tour in northern Taiwan in September 2017. CNA file photo
Worshippers take photos of a statue of sea goddess Mazu from Meizhou, China during her tour in northern Taiwan in September 2017. CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) Most of the members of a delegation from China, invited to bring the Meizhou Mazu statue to Taiwan for a religious event, were not "religious personnel" and unable to provide suitable documentation, so the government denied them entry to the country, Minister of the Interior Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said on Thursday.

Over 100 temples across Taiwan, including Dajia Jenn Lann Temple in Taichung, invited a delegation from Meizhou Island in Fujian Province, China, the birthplace of the deity, to bring the Mazu statue from its original temple to Taiwan to participate in a religious pilgrimage procession from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6.

The last time the Meizhou Mazu visited Taiwan was in September 2017, when it toured Taiwan for 17 days and attracted large crowds of believers as it traveled the island.

The delegation from China bringing the Meizhou Mazu was requested to provide documents detailing their identities at the beginning of November, according to a statement from the Ministry of the Interior.

Among the 239 individuals in the delegation, 218 were deemed not "religious personnel," it said.

Despite being informed of the related requirements a month ago, the group had failed to provide necessary documentation as of Thursday, including information on whether any members of the delegation were affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party or the military, Lin said.

Additionally, Lin said that the ministry had raised some questions regarding the itineraries listed in the application documents, and these queries remained unanswered.

As a result, the committee in charge of the case could not review or approve their entry to Taiwan, Lin added.

Also on Thursday, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chiu Tai-shan (邱太三) told reporters the agency processing the case was the department of religious affairs under the Ministry of the Interior and that the group was required to provide relevant documents in accordance with the regulations.

The government did not elaborate on whether the visa application process or the standard for entry has changed since 2017.

Responding to the incident, China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesman Chen Binhua (陳斌華) said that Taiwan's decision to refuse entry to the delegation was "rude" and "made no sense."

On Tuesday, the board of directors of the Mazu Temple on Meizhou Island issued a statement noting that despite temples across Taiwan urging the government to let the Meizhou Mazu enter Taiwan on multiple occasions, officials ignored their entreaties, causing harm to the Mazu faithful across Taiwan.

(By Huang Li-yun and Evelyn Yang)

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