The Dalai Lama on Thursday accused South Africa of “bullying a simple person” after authorities there failed to give him a visa to attend a summit of Nobel peace laureates.
His comments, at a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of his 1989 Nobel peace prize, followed claims that the summit of laureates had been cancelled after several other laureates pulled out in protest.
“The Nobel Peace Summit scheduled to be held in South Africa to honour the legacy of our fellow laureate, the late Nelson Mandela, has been cancelled as the South African government wouldn’t allow me to attend it,” the Dalai Lama said in a speech in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala where he is based. “This is sort of bullying a simple person.”
South Africa has been criticised in the past for refusing to grant the Dalai Lama a visa, reportedly under pressure from China. This year a number of laureates pulled out of the summit, scheduled to be held next week in Cape Town, in protest at South Africa’s failure to grant the Dalai Lama a visa.
‘Selling its sovereignty’
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader thanked his fellow peace laureates for their efforts, saying they had “worked hard” to resolve the issue. He made his comments at a ceremony in Dharamshala attended by two fellow laureates – Jody Williams, founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and the Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi – both of whom are boycotting the South Africa summit.
Williams accused President Jacob Zuma’s government of “selling its sovereignty” to China in a speech at the ceremony at the Dalai Lama’s monastery in Dharamshala on Thursday. “Not a single laureate is happy about that decision [to cancel]. Fourteen laureates protested to President Zuma, pressuring him, begging him, to give a visa to His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] so that we all could be together and celebrate in South Africa the legacy of Nelson Mandela.
“We could not go, and the message we were sending … was a message of protest to China. It was a message of protest to governments who sell their soul and their sovereignty to China, as South Africa did,” she said to loud applause from the audience of hundreds of Tibetan refugees.
SA government ‘spineless’
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he could not “believe that the South African government could shoot itself in the same foot thrice over”.
“When His Holiness was prevented by our government from attending my 80th birthday, I condemned that kowtowing to the Chinese roundly and reminded the ANC government that it did not represent me.”
“I warned them then that just as we had prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government so we would pray for the demise of a government that could be so spineless.”
He said the Nobel summit, the first to be held in Africa, was meant to celebrate former president Nelson Mandela. “His own comrades have spat in his face, refusing to see him honoured by the holders of the blue ribbon of awards and honours,” Tutu said. – Sapa