Tutu office 'confident' S.Africa will grant Dalai Lama visa

5th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Global activist Desmond Tutu's office said Monday it is confident South Africa will grant a visa to his close friend the Dalai Lama, who was barred entry two years ago over fears of angering China.

Tutu invited the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate to give a lecture as part of his 80th birthday celebrations next month but Pretoria has yet to announce if he will be allowed into the country.

"Neither Archbishop Tutu nor the Peace Centre is insensitive to the challenges government may face from China, due to the relationship between the two countries, with respect to granting a visa to His Holiness," said the centre's chairman Dumisa Ntsebeza.

"For this reason, government has been kept informed about arrangements for the visit since His Holiness accepted the Archbishops personal invitation in June."

South Africa last week confirmed a visa request at its embassy in New Delhi but said the matter has been referred to the foreign ministry over the request's political and diplomatic implications.

"Although uncertainty over the visa has proved challenging... the Peace Centre is confident the visa will be granted," said Ntsebeza.

The lecture will become an annual event and the Dalai Lama is a patron of the centre.

Tutu's birthday will also include a book launch on October 6 and a public church service followed by an invite-only picnic party on his actual birthday the next day.

In 2009, Tutu criticised the decision to bar entry to the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference in Johannesburg, with the government saying that it did not want to jeopardise relations with key trade partner China.

Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane later said that the Dalai Lama was free to visit the country and that the decision had been poorly communicated.

The Dalai Lama 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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