South Africa says
China played no role in its decision to bar Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai
Lama, from attending a peace conference this week in
Activists for Tibet say China, which is one of South
Africa's major trading partners, pressured the government into denying a visa to
the Dalai Lama.
A spokesman for South African President Kgalema Motlanthe
told reporters Monday that South Africa makes its own decisions. But he added
that a visit from the Tibetan spiritual leader at this time would not be in the
country's best interests.
The spokesman said the visit would distract
attention from South Africa hosting next year's football World Cup.
peace conference was scheduled to bring together four Nobel Peace Prize winners
to discuss how sporting events can promote racial and ethnic harmony.
Retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former presidents F.W. de Klerk
and Nelson Mandela had issued invitations to fellow Nobel peace laureates like
the Dalai Lama on behalf of the South African soccer officials who organized the
Tutu and members of the Nobel Committee have now canceled plans to attend
because the Dalai Lama was barred.
"(South Africa) should admit anyone with a legitimate and peaceful interest
and should not take political decisions on who should, and who should not,
attend," de Klerk said in a statement Monday. Former president FW de Klerk withdrew today from the 2010 World Cup peace
conference in Johannesburg this week because of government’s refusal to grant
the Dalai Lama a visa.
Dalai Lama has led a Tibetan government-in-exile in India since an uprising
against Chinese rule in his homeland failed in 1959. He was awarded the Nobel
prize for peace in 1989, four years before former South African presidents F.W.
DeKlerk and Nelson Mandela received the same honor.
They and Bishop
Desmond Tutu, the 1984 peace laureate, were all scheduled to take part in the
The Dalai Lama has visited
South Africa at least two times before, and the government suggested Monday that
it will allow visits in the future.
Some information for this report was provided by
AFP and AP.