S.Africa mulling Dalai Lama visa: foreign minister

13th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa is considering a visa request from the Dalai Lama, the government said Tuesday, two years after refusing entry to the Tibetan exiled spiritual leader over fears of angering China.

"Our mission in New Delhi has received a visa application from his holiness the Dalai Lama and, like all other high profile or ordinary visa applications, this application is under process," said Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

"That's how much I can say for now about the application."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has invited the Dalai Lama, a friend and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to his 80th birthday celebrations next month after South Africa earlier had barred a visit as it did not want to jeopardise ties with Beijing.

Last week, Tutu said the government will "shoot themselves in the foot" if the request was again refused.

"I mean it's so sad to think that we have had a kind of experience of repression that we have had in that we should want to kowtow to a hugely repressive regime that can dictate to us about freedom and things of that kind," he told a local newspaper.

"For oldies like us...it just gives us a sadness," he added.

The Dalai Lama is due to give an inaugural peace lecture as part of events to mark Tutu's October 7 birthday.

In 2009, Tutu criticised the decision to bar entry to the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference in Johannesburg, which Nkoana-Mashabane later described as poor communication and said he was welcome to visit South Africa.

The Tibetan has lived in exile in India since 1959 when he fled an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

He says he wants better treatment for Tibetans and accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a "splittist" and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders.

© 2011 AFP

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