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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."

Outrage at Dalai Lama's snub

March 23, 2009

Independent Online (South Africa)
March 22 2009

Outrage has greeted the government's ban on a
visit to South Africa by the Dalai Lama, the
Tibetan spiritual leader, who was due to take
part in a 2010 World Cup-organised peace conference in Johannesburg on Friday.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who is in
California, told the Sunday Tribune he was upset
at the refusal of a visa to the Dalai Lama and
had written to President Kgalema Motlanthe asking him for an explanation.

"If His Holiness's visa is refused, then I won't
take part in the coming 2010 World Cup-related
peace conference. I will condemn government's
behaviour as disgraceful, in line with our
country's abysmal record at the United Nations
Security Council, a total betrayal of our struggle history," he said.

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

The Dalai Lama had been invited by his three
fellow South African Nobel Peace Prize Laureates,
former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk, and Tutu.

Dave Steward, spokesman for the F W De Klerk
Foundation, said, "There is no reason why the
Dalai Lama, who is recognised as a champion of
peace, and as a Nobel Laureate, should be denied entry into South Africa.

"South Africa should not allow any country to
dictate who it should and should not allow to visit."

The Dalai Lama, who is honorary co-chairman of
the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre, was denied travel
documents on March 4 and asked to postpone the
trip amid opposition from the Chinese government.

Over the past two years, South Africa has been
China's key trade partner in Africa, accounting
for 20.8 percent of China's trade with Africa,
while Chinese foreign direct investment in South
Africa was about $6 billion (R60bn), and South
Africa's foreign direct investment in China came to $2bn (R20bn).

Dai Bing, ministerial counsellor at the Chinese
embassy in Pretoria, confirmed that his
government had appealed to the South African
government not to allow the Dalai Lama into the
country, warning that if it did so, this would harm bilateral relations.

Dai said this was a particularly inopportune time
for the Dalai Lama to visit the country as it was
the 60th anniversary of what Tibetans regard as
China's military invasion of Tibet, but which the
Chinese government describes as its liberation of Tibetans from feudal serfdom.

It was also the 50th anniversary of the Dalai
Lama's flight from Tibet into exile in India and
the first anniversary of the serious political unrest in Tibet last March.

The South African Friends of Tibet said yesterday
that the barring of the Dalai Lama from the peace
conference made a mockery of the intentions of
this conference, and it appealled to the
conference organisers, the 2010 World Cup Local
Organising Committee, to postpone the proceedings
until the Dalai Lama had been issued travel documents to South Africa.

The lobby group expressed dismay at the
withholding of travel documents to the Dalai
Lama, as South Africa bowed to pressure from one
of the world's most oppressive nations, claiming
that S F Moloi, the South African high
commissioner in New Delhi, had effectively banned
the Dalai Lama by not processing his travel
documents,and requesting him to postpone the trip.

Ronnie Mamoepa, the foreign affairs spokesman,
denied the government was blocking the invite to
the Dalai Lama, insisting that, "no invitation
had been extended to the Dalai Lama".

When it was put to him that the Tibetan office in
Pretoria had applied for a visa for the Dalai
Lama on March 4, Mamoepa said; "Visas are issued by Home Affairs and not us…"

Asked if South Africa had withheld an invitation
to the Dalai Lama under pressure from China,
Mamoepa said, "This place is called the Republic
of South Africa and not China and thus makes its
own sovereign, independent decisions based on
what it deems to be in the best interests of the country."

The Dalai Lama was invited to speak at the
conference, whose line-up includes the Nobel
Peace Prize committee from Norway and Charlize
Theron and Morgan Freeman, who plays Mandela in a
movie about the Rugby World Cup in 1995.

However, in a letter sent last week to the three
South African Nobel Laureates, the Dalai Lama
apologised for not being able to attend, saying
he had been asked to postpone the trip.

The Dalai Lama has visited South Africa twice
before. In 1999 he took part in the World
Parliament of Religions and met then President Thabo Mbeki.

However, a row broke out after Mbeki agreed to
see the Dalai Lama again separately. The Chinese
government protested and Mbeki cancelled the meeting.

In 2004 the Dalai Lama again visited South Africa
as a guest of the African Cultural Heritage Trust.
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