April 4, 2009

The Seventh Sign of Hell: Dalai Lama barred from Peace Conference.

Apparently winning the Nobel Peace Prize is no longer enough to give you street cred. 

So why has the Dalai Lama been banned? After all, ain’t he everyone’s favorite “simple monk” who’s been advocating a peaceful resolution with China, which took over his country in the 1950s…even at the cost of getting hell from a new Tibetan generation that’s grown impatient with his talk of compassion and understanding in the face of genocide, environmental devastation, circumscribed civil rights? Oh, right:


Excerpt via The New York Times:


… government said Monday that the Dalai Lama’s presence at the conference would have distracted the world’s attention from South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup and drawn it instead into the fraught relations between the Dalai Lama and China, one of the country’s most important trading partners. Thabo Masebe, a government spokesman, said the Tibetan leader’s presence “would not be in South Africa’s best interests.”

Three of South Africa’s Nobel laureates had invited the Dalai Lama to attend, and the government’s move to deny him entry drew sharp condemnations on Monday both here and abroad.

Critics of the decision, including Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, said South Africa had caved in to China, which has aggressively sought to extend its influence across Africa in recent years. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China said at a news conference this month that foreign countries should stay away from any involvement in the Tibet issue.

“We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure,” Mr. Tutu told a South African newspaper, The Sunday Tribune, a statement his office confirmed on Monday. “I feel deeply distressed and ashamed.”

South Africa’s decision comes at a particularly charged moment in China’s relations with ethnic Tibetans. China has sent thousands of troops to the Tibetan region to quell any repeat of the anti-Chinese riots that broke out a year ago in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile in India. China has accused him of pursuing independence for Tibet, while he maintains that he is seeking only autonomy, not separation.

Mr. Tutu and F. W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela in 1993, said they would boycott the peace conference if the Dalai Lama was kept out of the country, as did the executive director of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Geir Lundestad.

Mr. de Klerk said in a statement released by his foundation that the government’s decision to exclude the Dalai Lama was irreconcilable with the country’s commitment to freedom of expression and made a mockery of the whole purpose of the peace conference.

“It’s remarkably inept, not only on the part of our own authorities, but also on the part of the Chinese, who are usually more adroit,” said Dave W. Steward, executive director of the F. W. de Klerk Foundation. “Here’s China exerting a lot of economic muscle on an African country in a way that does not redound very well on that African country.”

Mr. Mandela, 90, the third Nobel laureate to invite the Dalai Lama here, had not planned to attend the conference because of his advanced age.

Achmat Dangor, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, issued a statement Monday saying the conference’s host committee was responsible for helping participants obtain visas “and should liase with the South African government if there are any delays in the issuing of visas.”

But Mr. Masebe was emphatic on Monday that the government had no intention of changing its position.

“Of course we have excellent relations with China, and of course they’ve contributed to increasing trade and investment, but it’s not China that made the decision,” he said. “It’s us.”

Du Ling, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria, would say only that “all countries that have diplomatic relations with China, including South Africa, recognize that there is only one China in the world and it does not recognize the so-called independence of Tibet.”

If South Africa’s intention in barring the Dalai Lama was to keep the attention of the world focused on the World Cup instead of Tibet, it certainly seemed to backfire...for the rest, click here.

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