South Africa has denied the Dalai Lama’s visa application to attend a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in Cape Town, according to a representative of the Tibetan Buddhist leader. South Africa’s refusal is speculated to be directly influenced by China, its largest trading partner. China has long refused to recognize the Dalai Lama over his opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet and often pressures other countries to do the same.
A South African government spokesman said the South African High Commission (i.e. embassy) in New Delhi, India, where the 14th Dalai Lama lives in exile, received his application, but that it wasn’t denied, only subject to “normal due process.” Nangsa Codon, a representative for the Dalai Lama in South Africa, told Reuters that “we have informally received contact His Holiness won’t get his visa application … for now the Dalai Lama has decided to cancel his trip to South Africa.”
Other laureates have said they won’t attend if the Dalai Lama is refused entry into South Africa, according to the Guardian. South Africa has refused the Dalai Lama’s visa applications twice in the past, once in 2009 to attend a peace conference and again in 2011 to celebrate fellow Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday party. A South African court ruled the latter case was unlawful in 2012. The Dalai Lama last visited South Africa in 1996 to visit Nelson Mandela.
China has pressured other governments and leaders to not meet with the Dalai Lama in the past, including the U.S. President Barack Obama in February. Obama went ahead with the meeting, praising the Buddhist leader’s nonviolent approach in Tibet.
South Africa became China’s biggest trading partner in 2009 and joined BRICS, a trading bloc with Brazil, Russia, India and China in 2010. South Africa and China conducted more than $25 billion in bilateral trade in 2014, a 32 percent increase from 2013.
Eleven Nobel Peace Prize Laureates are scheduled to attend the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town in October. The Dalai Lama’s good friend and fellow Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu will host the summit alongside former President Frederik Willem De Klerk, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Albert Luthuli Trust.