The government of South Africa has refused to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama, who has been forced to cancel a trip there to celebrate the 80th birthday of fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Tibetan leader was supposed to be visiting South Africa this Thursday.
According to the Dalai Lama’s office, visa applications were submitted to the South African High Commission in New Delhi at the end of August and original passports were submitted on 20th September, but nothing was subsequently heard.
According to the New York Times, Cosatu, a powerful coalition of trade unions, criticized the South African government for allowing China to influence South Africa’s foreign policy.
However, the government has denied that it was under pressure from China to block the visit. Beijing regards the Dalai Lama as a “splittist,” although his position is that Tibet should have greater autonomy within China, not that it should gain independence.
The Vancouver Sun points out that China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner.
The Dalai Lama was also to have been awarded the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation. As a young man, Gandhi worked as a lawyer in South Africa, where first employed non-violent civil disobedience as in support of the civil rights movement there.
Additionally, he was to give a talk at the University of the Witwatersrand.
“We would encourage the South African government not to silence the voice of the Dalai Lama. We should welcome the opportunity to host him in South Africa and we should allow all voices to be heard in our democracy – a right for which we have fought with our lives,” Loyiso Nongxa, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University, said in a statement.
The Dalai Lama had previously been refused a visa in 2009, according to Rediff News.