Johannesburg: South Africa officials may block the Dalai Lama from celebrating the 80th birthday of his friend and fellow Nobel Peace Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, amid fears that Chinese pressure is trumping the country`s much-vaunted policies on freedom of speech and human rights.
South African newspapers are already drawing parallels between the situations of Tibetans under Chinese rule and black South Africans under the racist apartheid regime that ended in 1994.
The tensions over the Dalai Lama`s visa application also are a sign of how powerful China`s influence has grown in Africa.
"Our leadership has a clear choice: to look deep into the African soul and emulate (Nelson) Mandela`s actions by extending a hand of friendship, while at the same time understanding that it won`t, in fact, have any real impact on our relations with China," said an editorial in the Daily Maverick.
"Or, once again to yield as the people who will submit to the will of another nation, to constrict our spirit and our standing as a moral society, and close our doors on a genuine man of peace and the justified hopes of his people."
The Dalai Lama is to deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace lecture, titled "Peace and compassion as catalyst for change," as part of the Oct. 6-8 birthday celebrations for Tutu.
The center that invited the Dalai Lama says he first tried to apply for a visa in June but was told it was too far ahead of his trip.
Later South African officials said they couldn`t process the visa with a photocopied passport of the Buddhist icon and had to wait for him to submit his original document.