Dalai Lama visa blocked over S African trade fears
Johannesburg: South Africa refused to give the
Dalai Lama a visa to visit for Desmond Tutu's birthday because
the foreign ministry feared his trip would jeopardise trade
ties with China, a media report said.
"The People's Republic of China is South Africa's largest
trading partner and was key in avoiding the last recession,
among others," read a secret foreign ministry document, which
the weekly City Press said it had obtained.
The document said that South Africa's "strategic
relationship" with China depended on Pretoria unconditionally
supporting Beijing's "one China" policy, which rejects Tibetan
China regards the Dalai Lama as a "splittist" and frowns
on overseas travel by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
"The issue of Tibet is high in China's priority and is
seen as posing a threat to sovereignty. South Africa respects
the quest for China to protect its sovereignty," the document
said, according to the paper.
"In dealing with the Dalai Lama, the government is
sensitive to the need to uphold the right of association
espoused in our constitution but must balance that with the
real or imagined role of Dalai Lama," it reportedly said.
"The government, in pursuit of South Africa's national
interest, has sought to balance these two issues," it said.
South Africa never publicly announced if it would grant a
visa to the Dalai Lama, who was scheduled to give a speech in
Cape yesterday to mark Tutu's 80th birthday.
The Dalai Lama cancelled trip, saying he had received no
news about his visa, provoking a furious reply from Tutu who
called President Jacob Zuma's administration "worse than the
apartheid government" for bowing to China and ignoring the
values of the liberation movement.
South African media also reported today that in the midst
of the visa scandal last week, a top-level delegation from the
governing African National Congress -- led by the party's
secretary General Gwede Mantashe -- quietly flew off to China.
"It is about understanding the political system and how to
take lessons from the Chinese on governance issues," one party
official told City Press.