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22 March, 2009

Dalai Lama denied access to Johannesburg peace conference

South Africa has barred Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama from entering the country to take part in a peace conference, media reports and a lobby group said on Sunday.

The Dalai Lama was to join fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates Desmond Tutu, Martti Ahtisaari and FW de Klerk, as well as Norway's Nobel Peace Committee, at the conference scheduled for March 27, the Sunday Independent reported.

The newspaper said his visa was refused due to pressure from the Chinese government, prompting Archbishop Tutu to threaten to pull out of the meeting and to demand an explanation from the authorities.

Tutu's office said on Sunday he had no further comment and was waiting for a response from the presidency.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 and set up a Tibetan government-in-exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Rioting broke out last March 14 in Tibet's main city of Lhasa after several days of peaceful protests by monks against Beijing's rule, killing 19 people and sparking a wave of protests across Tibetan areas. Exile groups say more than 200 people died in the crackdown.

The Sunday Independent said the Chinese embassy in South Africa had confirmed its government had appealed to South Africa not to allow the Dalai Lama into the country.

Lobby group Friends of Tibet said in a statement the South African High Commission in India had requested the Dalai Lama "postpone" the visit.

"We believe that the barring of his holiness to attend the peace conference makes a mockery of the intentions of this conference," it said.

Asked for comment on whether the government had refused the visa, South Africa's foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said: "The South African government has not extended any invitation to the Dalai Lama to come to South Africa."

Read the entire article at the Reuters India web site

Nobel outrage at South Africa’s decision to ban the Dalai Lama
South Africa was plunged into a diplomatic row yesterday after the Government barred the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, from entering the country to take part in a peace conference linked to the 2010 football World Cup.

Dalai Lama denied travel to S.Africa
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. "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.


NoVA Dad said...

Once again, it seems governments are placing an emphasis on political correctness over the larger concerns at play here. "Positive" headlines and economic relationships are winning out over human rights, again. I'm very pleased - but not at all surprised - to see that Archbishop Tutu has taken such a strong stand against this action.

Vjie said...

SA Government's policy is correct. Under the guise of a religious monk, His Holiness has never ceased to exploit every opportunity to make political statements. The UN and other countries in the world consider Tibet part of China. His Holiness therefore does not represent any state, and to treat him as a political leader of a country is wrong. I don't think it would be objectionable if HH confines himself only to preaching karmic philosophy or lamaist wisdom. vjie, singapore

NoVA Dad said...

Vjie, thank you for your comment here. I would ask, though, why the political statements of the Dalai Lama are the cause of concern - leaving aside for a moment the issue of Tibetan autonomy and that region's relationship to China. Religious figures from across the spectrum and throughout history have made political statements and taken stands on various issues: Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, many from the televangelist group here in the U.S., the pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, etc. etc. Do you find the involvement of these individuals, as well as leaders within Islam and many other religions, objectionable, and do you feel they should confine themselves to preaching religion?

My concern here is that if we start drawing a line between who can be a religious figure and talk politics and those who can be a religious leader and can't talk politics, it opens up an entirely new reason for debate and argument.