Wednesday, 25 March 2009

China forces South Africa to Ban Dalai Lama

South Africa has refused the Dalai Lama a visa to attend an international peace conference in Johannesburg this week. The Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Laureate did not receive a visa because it was not in South Africa's interest for him to attend, said Thabo Masebe, a presidential spokesman. South Africa is China's largest trading partner in Africa, with 2008 trade standing at 100bn rand ($10bn; £7bn).

Archbishop 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 the 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.

Former president F.W. De Klerk, backed Tutu, saying in a statement that he would also not participate in the conference if the Dalai Lama remained excluded. De Klerk said that the decision to refuse the visa made a "mockery" of the peace conference.

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.

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