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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

South Africa in Dalai Lama U-turn

May 17, 2009

Beijing opposed the planned visit of the Dalai Lama to South Africa
May 15, 2009

South Africa's government has made a U-turn over
its decision in March to deny the Dalai Lama a visa.

New International Relations Minister Maite
Nkoana-Mashabane said Tibet's spiritual leader
could now visit whenever he wanted.

The government caused an international outcry
when it said it would not allow him to attend a
peace conference, linked to the 2010 Football World Cup.

Critics accused South Africa of caving in to Chinese pressure.

The visa ban prompted Archbishop Desmond Tutu and
former South African President FW de Klerk to
pull out of the conference for Nobel laureates,
forcing organisers to postpone it indefinitely.

Despite the furore at the time, government
spokesman Thabo Masebe said no visa would be
issued "between now and the World Cup", which
South Africa is hosting. The government said his
presence would distract attention from the World
Cup - the first to be held in Africa.

But Ms Nkoana-Mashabane, appointed this week to
newly elected President Jacob Zuma's cabinet,
said she wanted to clarify the position.

"The Dalai Lama is more than free, like any other
citizen of the globe, who would want to visit our
country," she told journalists.

Beijing says the Dalai Lama is pushing for
Tibetan independence, and has stirred up unrest in the region.

But the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959
during an uprising against Chinese rule, has said
he only wants limited autonomy for his homeland.
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