Dalai Lama again refused S. Africa visa, no trip

September 4, 2014 - 11:06 AM
South Africa Dalai Lama

File: In this Aug. 26 2014 file photo Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, during a visit to Hamburg Germany. The Dalai Lama's South Africa representative says that he has again been refused entry into the country to attend the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Cape Town, South Africa next month. (Christian Charisius/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images-File)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The Dalai Lama has again been refused entry into South Africa where he was going to attend the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, his South African representative said. Concern about angering China has been cited for a visa refusal in the past.

Nangsa Choedon, the representative, said officials from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation called her to say the Tibetan spiritual leader's visa was denied, the Cape Times newspaper reported Thursday.

"For now the Dalai Lama has decided to cancel his trip to South Africa," Choedon was quoted as saying.

South Africa's international relations department said later Thursday it had received written confirmation from the office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama in India indicating he has cancelled his planned visit to South Africa.

South Africa's High Commission in New Delhi was still processing the visa application "in line with due process," it said. But "following the cancellation of the planned visit by the office of His Holiness, the Department now considers the matter to be closed."

Tashi Phuntsok, the spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile, said "if the news reports are correct, it is unfortunate that the South African government did not extend the same courtesy to the respected religious leader, the Dalai Lama, as it did to the other Nobel laureates."

The annual summit is being held in Cape Town next month and is meant to commemorate the life of Mandela.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation on Thursday said it took note of South Africa's statement about processing the visa.

"We look forward to being in attendance at the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town together with His Holiness and other laureates," the foundation said.

Other Nobel Laureates have told Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu that the will not attend if the Dalai Lama is not permitted into the country, the newspaper reported.

Asked about that, Tashi said: "Other Nobel laureates have always been supportive of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause, and we are grateful."

This is the third time in five years the Dalai Lama has been refused a South African visa.

A South African court in 2012 ruled that officials "unreasonably delayed" a decision about whether to grant the Dalai Lama a visa for a 2011 trip, largely out of fears of angering the Chinese government.

The Dalai Lama wants increased autonomy for Tibet, the homeland from which he has been exiled since 1959. China accuses him of being a separatist.

The Dalai Lama was welcomed to South Africa in 1996 and met with Nelson Mandela, the country's first black and democratically elected president. But in 2009, the South African government kept the Dalai Lama from attending a Nobel laureates' peace conference, saying it would detract attention from the 2010 soccer World Cup that was hosted here.

The spiritual leader later made plans to travel to South Africa in October 2011 to attend the 80th birthday party of a fellow Nobel laureate Tutu. The South African government did not issue the visa and the Dalai Lama ultimately withdrew his application.

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AP writer Nirmala George in New Delhi contributed to this report.