Opinion: People, even the 'free world' is cautious on the Dalai Lama!


No doubt, on Thursday, the sun set on South Africa with some sombre faces and angered hearts – the question on everyone’s lips is why would government deny the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a summit of Nobel peace laureates in Cape Town - for the third time in five years.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille went as far as to say that the South African government had embarrassed the country and undermined its international standing.

“The national government has treated our requests and those of the laureates themselves with disdain, and in so doing showed that they are more intent on pleasing Beijing than with ensuring that a prestigious international event is held in South Africa, which was intended to celebrate the late Nelson Mandela and 20 years of democracy,” said De Lille.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – and fellow laureate, criticised the South African government for the visa decision.

“I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government,” he said in a statement.

The majority of the laureates and laureate institutions decided not to attend the summit in protest. Last month, 14 Nobel laureates had written to President Jacob Zuma hoping he would ensure that a South African travel visa be granted to the Tibetan spiritual leader.

People, even in most of the free world the Dalai Lama is not so welcome!

While the South African government faces the ire of opposition parties and NGOs, its decision to pander China – as some have claimed, is a trend going on around the world.

This year, Russia refused the Dalai Lama a transit visa and Mongolia denied him entry.

In the past two years, the Dalai Lama visited Japan, New Zealand, the US and nearly a dozen European states – from Italy and the United Kingdom to Latvia and Switzerland.

Although he was welcomed in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron and his predecessors were no longer meeting the Dalai Lama at 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister’s official residence. The Britons have rather recently used venues such as St Paul’s Cathedral.

Apparently China has pressured governments to either not grant the Dalai Lama a visa or if they choose to, that the he meet no government officials and that the meetings take place in venues not officially tied to the state.

It seems most governments that have allowed the Dalai Lama into their borders have mimicked the British example.

The Dalai Lama’s White House visits in the past two administrations have often taken place in rooms other than the Oval Office – the official office of the President of the United States.

In February this year, President Barack Obama  - arguably the leader of the of the free world, chose to meet with the Dalai Lama in the White House map room – after China had said that such a meeting would “seriously damage” Sino-US ties.

Ask yourself, if America - the world’s leading free country, can make such compromises what is a country like South Africa supposed to do?

Ahead of a visit to Norway in May, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she would not meet the Dalai Lama citing problems with China.

Apparently, China froze trade talks with the Norway and placed an unofficial trade embargo on Norwegian salmon after it gave a Nobel Peace award to Chinese pro-civil society activist and Charter ’08 author, Liu Xiaobo, about four years ago. Xiaobo remains in prison in China.

Norway has been a reputed champion of liberal democracy for over a century.

This year, the Dalai Lama also travelled all over India. However, his visit to Delhi in mid-September got shifted so he would not be in the Indian capital at the same time as Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Perhaps seeing this trend, last year the Dalai relinquished his position as the political leader of Tibet in exile and now travels abroad only as a “religious leader” so as to “ease” his travel arrangements.

Again, what was South Africa supposed to do if leading free nations can bend to China?

On a positive note

Rumours have circulated in recent weeks that Beijing was considering a visit by the Dalai Lama and he said he is open to the idea. However, such visits have been rumoured for decades.

Photo caption: SOUTH AFRICA BULLYING A SIMPLE PERSON... The Dalai Lama, fled Tibet in 1959 during a failed uprising against China and lives in exile in India. He is revered by his followers as the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha Avalokiteshvara while the Chinese government calls him a separatist and has called on governments not to welcome him.