Dalai Lama visit to SA ‘unlikely’

2011-10-01 18:44

The Dalai Lama is “unlikely” to get a visa to visit South Africa this weekend for the 80th birthday party of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a senior government source told City Press.

Asked whether the visa was likely to be granted, given China’s vehement response to countries that accommodate visits by the Dalai Lama, the source said: “Unlikely.”

Government is looking at various scenarios to deal with the process because it is stuck between a rock and a hard place – grant the visa and risk upsetting SA-China relations or deal with the domestic fallout of refusing the visa.

The Dalai Lama will know tomorrow what the outcome of his application is but his spokesperson, Tenzin Taklha, said on Friday it would be difficult for him to travel if he had not received his visa by the past week.

A spokesperson at the South African consulate in New Delhi said it normally takes five day for a visa application to be finalised.

Government officials say the full visa application was only submitted on September 20 because the Dalai Lama’s original passport could not be submitted before that.

Although the Chinese government does not apply any direct pressure on the South African government to deny the Dalai Lama permission to visit South Africa, it is understood by government officials that relations with China might suffer if he were to visit.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe spent this week in China on an official visit.

The “Let him in Now! No pass laws for the Dalai Lama” campaign will protest outside Parliament tomorrow.

The Nobel peace laureate has been invited by Tutu to attend his birthday celebrations and deliver the “Peace and compassion as catalyst for change” lecture on Saturday in Cape Town.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to deliver a lecture at Wits University titled “Non-Violence in the New Century: The Way Forward” on October 14.

“We would encourage the South African government not to silence the voice of the Dalai Lama. We should welcome the opportunity and allow all voices to be heard in our democracy – a right for which we fought with our lives,” said Professor Loyiso Nongxa, the university’s vice-chancellor.

The Chinese government has adopted a stance of disapproval towards visits by the Dalai Lama to other countries.

“China firmly opposes the Dalai Lama’s visit to any country and this position is clear and consistent,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei on Tuesday.

The Chinese embassy in Pretoria, through its press officer Lin Fong, denied its government was blocking the Dalai Lama’s entry to South Africa.

In 2009 South Africa refused the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a peace conference in Durban.

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