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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

De Klerk opposes Dalai Lama decision

March 24, 2009

Times (South Africa)
March 23, 2009

Former president FW De Klerk will reconsider
attending a 2010 World Cup peace conference while
the government remains silent about its decision
not to issue a visa to Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

"Mr De Klerk has been in touch with the
department of foreign affairs and the presidency
to express his concern about the issue, but so
far he has received no reaction," his spokesman Dave Steward told Sapa.

The Dalai Lama had been invited to the event, to
be held in Johannesburg this week, by three South
African Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, former
presidents Nelson Mandela and De Klerk and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

The event would be used to discuss ways of using
football to fight racism and xenophobia ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The Dalai Lama was due speak at the conference.
The line-up also included the Nobel Peace Prize
committee from Norway and actors Charlize Theron and Morgan Freeman.

Tutu, who is in California in the United States,
said he would boycott the event if the government
refused the spiritual leader a visa.

"Mr De Klerk identifies with the position of
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and will reconsider his
participation in the World Cup event should the
South African government go ahead with a decision
not to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama," Steward said.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said on
Sunday that it was in South Africa’s "best
interests" not to issue the visa to the Dalai
Lama, who was due to attend conference to be held on Friday.

He insisted no pressure had been placed on South
Africa by the Chinese government to deny the visa to the Dalai Lama.

"As far as the SA government is concerned, no
invitation was extended to the Dalai Lama to visit South Africa," Mamoepa said.

"So therefore the question of the visas doesn’t
exist. This is an independent, sovereign
decision. I am not aware of any approach by the Chinese."

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

South Africa is one of China’s key trade partners
in Africa, accounting for around 20.8 percent of
China’s trade with the continent.

A spokesman for the Dalai Lama said he was "very disappointed" by the decision.

"It is true that South Africa, under intense
pressure from the Chinese authorities, have
denied a visa to the Dalai Lama," spokesman
Thubten Samphel told the French news agency AFP.

Opposition parties expressed disappointment at the decision.

Democratic Alliance foreign affairs spokesman
Tony Leon said the decision, reportedly taken at
the behest of the Chinese government, "flies in the face of all logic".

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille
accused the government of hypocrisy.

"We in the Independent Democrats believe that by
giving in to China or any other country’s
demands, the government is saying to the world
that we do not afford other peoples the same
rights we are afforded in our own Constitution,"
read a statement from her office.

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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