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On the Withholding a Visa to H.H. Dalai Lama

March 23, 2009

1. The South African Friends of Tibet (SAFT) expresses its dismay at the withholding of travel documents to H.H. Dalai Lama by the South African High Commissioner in New Delhi, effectively debarring H.H. Dalai Lama from participating in the Peace Conference to be held in Johannesburg on March 27th 2009.
2. His Holiness was to have attended Africa′s premier Peace Conference on special invitation from his three fellow South African Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, ex-President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and ex-President F.W. de Klerk.
3. In the meantime the South African High Commissioner in New Delhi has contacted the Office of H.H. Dalai Lama, requesting that His Holiness `postpone′ his visit to South Africa. This request is viewed by us as being tantamount to a refusal by the South African government to allow His Holiness to attend the Peace Conference.
4. We believe that the barring of His Holiness from the Peace Conference makes a mockery of the intentions of this conference, and we therefore appeal to the conference organizers, the 2010 World Cup Local Organising Committee either to postpone the proceedings until His Holiness has been issued with travel documents to South Africa and is able to attend, or to cancel the conference outright.
5. We further appeal to the above addressees and all concerned parties to protest this action and take whatever effective steps are in their power to ensure His Holiness is allowed to attend the conference.
6. We note the duplicity in the manoeuvre to `postpone′ His Holiness′ visit and will not regard a late issue of travel documents to His Holiness, such as will prevent his attendance at the conference, as a rectification of the matter.
7. Furthermore, we take the position that any refusal of travel documents to His Holiness by the South African government is in direct contravention to our constitutional right to freedom of religion, as His Holiness is the de facto leader of most Buddhist practioners worldwide.
8. We express our distaste at this response to His Holiness by our government (despite assurances from government structures including the Office of the President that there is no problem with granting the visa) whose own history of struggle against oppression is so strongly mirrored in the situation of the suffering Tibetan people today.
9. We observe that this distaste is felt by over 25 million citizens, the majority of South Africans, who have lodged statements* expressing solidarity in writing through their Faith and NGO organizations with His Holiness Dalai Lama, the Tibetan people and the `Middle-Way′ Approach.
10. We call for the true spirit of Ubuntu to prevail in the run up to elections and as South Africa begins to take global centre-stage in the build up to 2010. Ubuntu is the key to the Peace Conference, as conference themes will focus on anti-racism and xenophobia, and whether soccer can be used as a political tool to generate peace and harmony in Africa. In the words of the Icon of Peace His Holiness Dalai Lama: "Ubuntu is a rich and wonderful concept. Respecting nature, accepting oursleves as part of nature, ubuntu therefore is very relevant to modern society."
11. Finally, we call on the South African government to give reasons for this action, especially reassuring us that the refusal of travel documents to H.H. Dalai Lama has in no way been dictated by its relations with the government of the People′s Republic of China.

-The Committee and Members of the South African Friends of Tibet.


Now we are clear on the reasons for the refusal by the South African government of a visa to H.H. Dalai Lama, we are impelled to express the following views:

1.Dai Bing, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in South Africa has told the media that the South African government was asked not to allow H.H. Dalai Lama to attend the Johannesburg Peace Conference at this `inopportune time.′ It was inopportune, he explained, because 2009 marked the 60th anniversary of the `liberation of Tibet from feudal serfdom′, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa.
2. We interpret his reasons as an attempt to obscure from public view the illegal invasion and occupation of Tibet by the PRC and the People′s Liberation Army in 1949, together with the subsequent brutalities practised by China on the Tibetan people. In the course of the 60 years of `peaceful liberation′ more than 1.2 million Tibetans have perished.
3. The Tibetan people continue to suffer brutal oppression under Chinese colonial rule, and thousands of Tibetans, including minks and nuns, continue to languish and suffer degrading treatment in Chinese prisons today.
4. This means that H.H. Dalai Lama has been barred from the Johannesburg Peace Conference in order that any reference he might make to Chinese atrocities in Tibet be silenced in this country.
5. The South African government, by denying a visa to H.H. Dalai Lama, has shown itself a willing partner with China in keeping the Brutalization of Tibet veiled from public view.
6. Taking these facts into consideration, our stance is that the Peace Conference, besides being utterly compromised in its intentions, would actually represent a triumph of Chinese propaganda.
7. In barring H.H. Dalai Lama from entering the country to attend the conference, the South African government has, in our view, acted unconstitutionally with regard to religious and other public freedoms. The Peace Conference, in its compromised, Chinese-dictated form, would serve to strengthen this tendency.
8. We therefore insist that this Chinese-dictated Peace Conference be postponed until H.H. Dalai Lama is able to attend, or be cancelled outright.
9. Peace can neither be discussed nor discovered in an atmosphere of political tyranny.

The Committee and Members of the South African Friends of Tibet.

For more information contact:
South African Friends of Tibet (SAFT)
Phone: PO Box 1376, Hermanus. 72. South Africa.

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