Monday, March 23, 2009

Dalai Lama and South African Peace Conference

Earlier this morning, the BBC reported that South Africa has denied the Dalai Lama a visa that would allow him to attend a peace conference being held in Johannesburg this week (

The South African government has publicly denied that denying the Dalai Lama a visa has anything to do with the relationship that it has with the Chinese government, however the article quotes "unnamed" sources from the government as saying that South Africa would not do anything that would upset their relationship with China. The government has stated that their decision had nothing to do with pressure from the Chinese, and that this was merely a strategic decision that will not detract from the attention on South Africa in the leadup to the 2010 World Cup (this peace conference is part of the buildup to the World Cup next summer).

Although the Dalai Lama has stated that he only supports limited autonomy for Tibet, he still represents Chinese independence. As a result of the government's actions, other important peace leaders, such as Desmond Tutu, have decided to not attend the conference, calling the denial of the Dalai Lama's visa "disgraceful." The fallout from this decision is not merely going to stop after the peace conference is over, though, and it will have a negative impact on events over the next year and a half in South Africa as it prepares for the World Cup.


  1. Just to follow up on this issue, the peace conference has been "indefinitely postponed" following the withdrawal of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president of South Africa, FW de Klerk. (

    This is an absolute PD disaster for South Africa and has drawn more negative attention from the world than it would have from just China had it given the Dalai Lama a visa. It has detracted from all of the positive attention being devoted to South Africa in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup and I do see this causing issues down the road during other events that South Africa has scheduled prior to the World Cup next summer.

  2. Denying the Dalai Lama a visa to enter South Africa sends a message to the continent of Africa about human rights abuse and national sovereignty. South Africa is the leader within the African Union and charts the path for the continent. Facing harsh criticism for Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” and now refusing to recognize a peaceful world leader sets a dangerous course for human rights within a continent.

    Additionally, it acknowledges that corrupt or dictatorial leaders power should not be questioned. Coming from a continent where challenges to power ended colonialism, the stress on state sovereignty over the livelihood of the fellow man seems awry. It feels as though South Africa is clearly positioning itself as a leader that wants power to remain constant.

    Furthermore, it indicates a willingness for South Africa to support economic initiatives over human rights. South Africa wants to align with China in an attempt to gain additional investments and development projects. It sees China as a vital interest within the continent and the new superpower. The rejection of a visa to the Dalai Lama cements a changing tide and image in South Africa.