S.Africa Dalai Lama ban will be bow to China: rights group

30th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A refusal by South Africa of the Dalai Lama to take part in Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday next Friday will be to please China and a denial of its struggle for democracy, said Human Rights Watch.

"The South African government's reluctance to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama, Tibetans' spiritual leader, has no objective basis and appears to be based on no more than fear of Chinese government displeasure," the group said in a statement.

South Africa has refused to announce its decision on the Dalai Lama's visa. He was invited by Tutu to give a peace lecture on Saturday as part of events to celebrate his October 7 birthday.

Pretoria barred the Dalai Lama in 2009 over fears of jeopardising ties with China which is the country's main national trade partner.

"If South Africa refuses a visa to a Nobel Prize recipient and human rights campaigner, with no objective grounds for refusal, then there can only be less-than-noble motivations for its action," said HRW Africa director Daniel Bekele.

"For the government to block a leader who supported South Africa's struggles is not only to deny its own history, but it raises questions about whether the government looks to Pretoria, or to Beijing, for some of its domestic policy decisions."

China warns countries that allow the Dalai Lama entry risk retribution and South Africa would not be the first country to refuse a vist by the Dalai Lama but it should make it clear that 2009 was the last time.

"There are few better ways to honor Archbishop Tutu, and that for which he and South Africa stand, than by acting on principle rather than perceived political expediency," said Bekele.

The government has said that visa procedure has not been followed which the offices of Tutu and the Dalai Lama have denied and slammed the government's response as "profoundly disrespectful".

China refused to recognise criticism of its policies in Tibet, said HRW.

"There is a long and documented history of alleged human rights abuses suffered by Tibetans living under Chinese rule, which remain unaddressed," it said.

© 2011 AFP

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