DHARAMSALA, INDIA —
A summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners to be held in Cape Town could be canceled because of South Africa's refusal to issue a visa to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Six female laureates canceled their visit to South Africa after the government denied the Dalai Lama entry to the country last month. The six accuse China of pressuring countries to curb interactions with the Dalai Lama, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is set for Capetown from October 13 to 15. But the city of Cape Town is reportedly scheduled to announce the cancellation on Thursday. No new date or venue for the summit has been arranged.
One of the six boycotting laureates, American Jody Williams, said at a press conference in the Indian town of Dharamsala that she was proud the protest resulted in cancelation of the summit. She also said that she and the five other Nobel winners were surprised when South Africa denied the visa for the Dalai Lama.
"When we first learned that the Nobel summit this year would be in Cape Town, South Africa, hosted by President de Klerk, a Nobel laureate, Archbishop Tutu, a Nobel laureate and the woman mayor of Cape Town, we immediately sent a note, expressing our deep concern that this site had been chosen, given the history of South Africa, in bending to Chinese pressure and refusing to allow His Holiness to visit. A level of confusion was made for many of us that he was even not allowed a visa in terms of going to celebrate Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday. How that could be a threat to the government of China was extremely confusing to us," said Williams.
This would have been the first summit of its kind in South Africa. China uses the claim that the Dalai Lama wants to restore Tibetan independence, an accusation that he has denied in various public forums over the last several years. He says that he is willing for Tibet to be a part of the People’s Republic of China and only wants more cultural and religious freedoms, and greater human rights for his people.
The Dalai Lama has also denied China's assertion that he encourages Tibetans protesting repression in Tibet to carry out self-immolation protests, of which there have been over 130 since 2009.. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since March, 1959 when Tibetans whisked him out of Lhasa days before the Chinese army started it’s shelling of the Tibetan capital.