The South African Government, stooping under pressure from the Chinese government and business leaders, has denied the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the upcoming international peace conference in Johannesburg which is scheduled to begin this week.
Thabo Masebe, a spokesperson for the South African government has stated that if the Dalai Lama attended the conference, the focus would shift away from the 2010 World Cup which South Africa will host next year:
"We cannot allow focus to shift to China and Tibet," Masebe said, adding that South Africa has gained much from its trading relationship with China.
The Dalai Lama's fellow Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said that he will not attend the peace conference in protest:
"We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure," Archbishop Tutu was quoted as telling the Sunday Independent. "I feel deeply distressed and ashamed."
A spokesperson for the Dalai Lama told AFP news agency he was "very disappointed" by the decision, also accusing South Africa of caving into "intense pressure" from Chinese authorities.
Former South African president, F.W. De Klerk, also a Nobel laureate, is in solidarity with Desmond Tutu, saying that he would also not participate in the conference if the Dalai Lama remained excluded.
De Klerk said that the decision to refuse the visa made a "mockery" of the peace conference."The decision to exclude the Dalai Lama is irreconcilable with key principles on which our society is based including the principles of accountability, openness and responsiveness and the rights to freedom of expression and free political activity."
"South Africa is a sovereign constitutional democracy and should not allow other countries to dictate to it regarding who it should, and should not admit to its territory - regardless of the power and influence of the country."
South Africa bans Dalai Lama trip