For the past three months a saga has been brewing between the South African government, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.
The issue at hand is a visa application for the Dalai Lama to attend the Archbishop Emeritus Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations.
“Profoundly disrespectful,” is how the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre and the Office of Tibet in Pretoria referred to the slow response from the government in a joint statement on September 28.
Tutu compared the recent situation to the way authorities handled applications by black South Africans under apartheid.
In an article at Cape Times Nomfundo Walaza, chief executive of the Desmont Tutu Peace Centre was quoted as saying, “It would have been much more respectful to have received a negative answer than no answer at all. How can we arrange the visit if we don’t know whether it will be happening? We are an NGO. Who picks up the costs?”
The celebration, scheduled for next week, is set to include an inaugural peace lecture from the Dalai Lama.
According to an article at The Globe and Mail this is the second time in two years that South Africa has been reluctant to allow a visit by the Dalai Lama.
The first visit was blamed on the World Cup events in 2009, this time an official was quoted last week saying his application was incomplete up until last week, the Cape Times reported.
Both instances appear to be due to pressure from China, South Africa’s biggest trading partner according to the Glove and Mail.
According to the Globe and Mail, “Beijing has repeatedly attacked any government that permits a visit by the Dalai Lama, whom it denounces as a ‘splittist’ and a ‘wolf in monk’s robes.’ Chinese leaders have often retaliated politically against governments that hold meetings with the Dalai Lama.”
In a blog at the Guardian, the issue stems from the current Tibetan spiritual leader’s recent announcement that he may choose not to be reincarnated. “Tradition demands he be reincarnated in Tibet, which means that the Chinese would get to coose who he was and then bring hip up as a loyal Chinese citizen,” the blog by Andrew Brown states. The blog goes on to address the Dalai Lama’s role in reducing China’s power over Tibet, a move that was also strengthened when the Dalai Lama handed over his political power to a body elected from among Tibetan exiles.
With the Archbishop’s birthday celebration less than a week away the visa situation seems to have hit a wall, with no movement in either direction maybe expected in the following days.