South African government bars Dalai Lama from entering its country

The Dalai Lama was to join fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates Desmond Tutu, Martti Ahtisaari and FW de Klerk, as well as Norway’s Nobel Peace Committee, at the conference scheduled for March 27, the Sunday Independent reported.

The newspaper said his visa was refused due to pressure from the Chinese government, prompting Archbishop Tutu to threaten to pull out of the meeting and to demand an explanation from the authorities.

Tutu’s office said on Sunday he had no further comment and was waiting for a response from the presidency.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 and set up a Tibetan government-in-exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Rioting broke out last March 14 in Tibet’s main city of Lhasa after several days of peaceful protests by monks against Beijing’s rule, killing 19 people and sparking a wave of protests across Tibetan areas. Exile groups say more than 200 people died in the crackdown.

The Sunday Independent said the Chinese embassy in South Africa had confirmed its government had appealed to South Africa not to allow the Dalai Lama into the country.

Lobby group Friends of Tibet said in a statement the South African High Commission in India had requested the Dalai Lama "postpone" the visit.

"We believe that the barring of his holiness to attend the peace conference makes a mockery of the intentions of this conference," it said. 

Asked for comment on whether the government had refused the visa, South Africa’s foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said: "The South African government has not extended any invitation to the Dalai Lama to come to South Africa."

The Dalai Lama was invited to participate in the conference by Tutu, De Klerk and former South African President Nelson Mandela.