Tutu hopes S.Africa defies China over Dalai Lama

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Activist Desmond Tutu said South Africa's government will "shoot themselves in the foot" if they deny a visa to the Dalai Lama to please key trade partner China, a report said Friday.

Tutu invited the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to his 80th birthday celebrations next month but Pretoria has yet to announce if it will grant him a visa after denying his entry in 2009 over fears of angering Beijing.

"It's only a few weeks left and you need to know, prepare. What's going to happen if he doesn't come?" Tutu told the Cape Times, saying the wait for a decision was a little "ungracious".

"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."

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

The two Nobel Peace Prize laureates are close friends and the Dalai Lama is due to give an inaugural peace lecture to mark Tutu's October 7 birthday.

"This is not someone who is coming to speak about encouraging people to fight. He's speaking about peace and compassion, about caring, and he has one of the largest followings in the world," said Tutu.

He was "very hopeful" that the visa will be granted, the newspaper reported.

In 2009, the outspoken activist 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.

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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