Six Nobel laureates boycott summit over Dalai Lama visa
Six Nobel peace laureates will boycott a global summit in South Africa next month after the government refused to grant the Dalai Lama a visa, a spokeswoman said Thursday.
South Africa denied Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader permission to attend the summit to avoid angering China, which regards the Buddhist monk as a campaigner for Tibetan independence.
Six women who have won the Nobel peace prize will boycott the summit in solidarity, Rachel Vincent, communications director for the Canadian-based Nobel Women’s Initiative told AFP.
They are American activist Jody Williams, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman, Northern Irish activist Mairead Maguire and a representative of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
“The Dalai Lama advocates a nonviolent, negotiated solution to the Tibet problem,” the Nobel Women’s Initiative said in announcing the boycott.
Accusing China of putting political pressure on countries to limit the monk’s freedom to travel, it noted “China’s public declaration of thanks for South Africa’s decision to block the spiritual leader from entering South Africa”.
Their decision comes after 14 peace laureates earlier this month sent a letter to President Jacob Zuma urging him to grant the Dalai Lama a visa for what will be the first summit of its kind in Africa.
China — South Africa’s biggest single trading partner, with two-way trade worth $21 billion in 2012 — regularly uses its economic and political clout to put pressure on governments around the world to refuse contact with the Tibetan.
The Nobel summit in Cape Town on October 13-15 is backed by foundations representing four South African peace laureates — Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, F. W. De Klerk and Albert Luthuli.
Before the announcement of the boycott, the organisers said that along with the two surviving South Africans — Tutu and De Klerk — 13 individuals and eight organisations had confirmed that they would attend the summit, including former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.
Previous summits have been held in cities such as Rome, Paris, Chicago and Warsaw.