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Dalai Lama denied travel to S. Africa: activists

March 23, 2009

March 21, 2009

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South Africa's embassy in
New Delhi has denied travel documents to Tibet's
exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, barring
him from attending a peace conference in Johannesburg, activists said Sunday.

The Dalai Lama had planned to join other Nobel
peace prize winners including Nelson Mandela and
FW de Klerk at a conference Friday to discuss
ways of using soccer to fight racism and
xenophobia, as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup.

South African Friends of Tibet said in a
statement that the Dalai Lama has been denied
travel documents, saying the country's high
commissioner in New Delhi had asked the Dalai Lama to postpone his trip.

"We believe that the barring of his holiness from
the peace conference makes a mockery of the
intentions of this conference," the group said in a statement.

The Sunday Independent newspaper quoted China's
minister counsellor at the embassy in Pretoria,
Dai Bing, as saying that his government had urged
South Africa to deny the visit, warning it would harm bilateral relations.

Dai told the paper that it was an "inopportune
time" for the Dalai Lama to visit, coming just
after the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising
against China's rule of Tibet, which led to the
exile of the Dalai Lama, the region's most revered spiritual figure.

The paper quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a
spokesman for de Klerk as saying they would
reconsider their participation in the conference
if the Dalai Lama were not allowed to come.

"We are shamelessly succombing to Chinese
pressure. I feel deeply distressed and ashamed," Tutu told the paper.

De Klerk has expressed concern to the president
and the foreign ministry over the visa, said Dave
Steward, spokesman for his foundation.

"If the visa is not granted, Mr de Klerk and
other laureates will reconsider their
participation in the event, and this would not be
a good thing for South Africa and the World Cup," he told the paper.
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