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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."

EDITORIAL: Struggle history is betrayed by barring Dalai Lama

March 24, 2009

The Editor
The Times (South Africa)
March 23, 2009

WOULD appear that our government no longer feels
it has the diplomatic status or clout to ignore
pressure from China — a key trading partner. But
refusing the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s leader in exile,
leave to enter South Africa to attend a peace
conference is a betrayal of the moral victory we won in 1994.

We echo the accusation by Archbishop emeritus
Desmond Tutu, that barring the Dalai Lama is a
"total betrayal of our struggle history."

"We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese
pressure; I feel deeply distressed and ashamed," Tutu said.

South Africa is fast losing whatever moral
authority it had on the world stage. Our dismal
record on the United Nations Security Council is proof of this.

During its tenure on the UN Security Council
South Africa voted against moves to condemn the
Burmese military junta and Robert Mugabe’s regime.

What reason would the South African government
have for barring the Dalai Lama other than a fear
that it would upset its very important trading
partner, the People’s Republic of China?

When South Africa severed ties with Taiwan in
favour of full diplomatic relations with Beijing,
many saw this as a pragmatic approach to foreign relations.

But there must be some space for morality in our diplomatic relations.

The people of Tibet have suffered under
oppressive Chinese rule since the 1950s.

Of all the nations on Earth that should empathise
with their plight, South Africa should.

We have lived under oppressive regimes, yet we
chose to ally ourselves with the likes of Burma’s
junta. Sure, it is profitable to keep China
sweet. But should it cost us our honour?

The drama over the Lama brings to mind a quote from journalist Walter Lippmann.

He said: "A man has honour if he holds himself to
an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient,
unprofitable or dangerous to do so."
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