The Dalai Lama has again been prevented from visiting South Africa, amidst widespread accusations that the Chinese government has pressured officials in Pretoria to block the Tibetan spiritual leader’s voyage there.
Famed anti-apartheid activist and fellow Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu had invited the Dalai Lama to celebrate the archbishop’s 80th birthday; however South African authorities failed to grant a visa in time.
His Holiness was to depart for South Africa on 6 October 2011 but visas have not been granted yet, the Dalai Lama's office in northern India said in a statement.
We are, therefore, now convinced that for whatever reason or reasons, the South African government finds it inconvenient to issue [a] visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The statement added that the Dalai Lama does not want to create any inconveniences to anyone, individuals or governments,” but that he regrets the inconveniences caused to his hosts and the large number of South African public.
The Dalai Lama was blocked from visiting South Africa two years ago as well.
Although the South African government has denied that China forced it to prevent the Dalai Lama’s visit, just last week the South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe visited Beijing to sign various bilateral trade and investment deals.
While Motlanthe made no public statements about the Dalai Lama’s visa, China has in the past vociferously attacked governments who allowed the Tibetan to visit, citing that he is a dangerous separatist.
Complicating factors is that South Africa is a huge beneficiary of financial aid and investment from China. According to Reuters, South Africa exports about $5.5 billion annually year in minerals to China. Last year, China even invited South Africa to join the BRIC.
Tutu himself has criticized his own government for bowing to Chinese pressures, while protests have been held outside South Africa's parliament by supporters of the Dalai Lama.
I do not even have the words to say how sad I feel. This is the darkest day,” Tutu said in a statement.
Our officials felt it was not even important to respond to his visa application.
Over the weekend, the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre added its name to a petition calling South African officials to allow the Dalai Lama to enter the country.