South Africa Refuses Dalai Lama Visa Over 2010 World Cup
South Africa has refused the Dalai Lama a visa over concerns that his visit will shift focus away from 2010 Football World Cup.
He was invited to attend an international peace conference in Johannesburg the upcoming week, a presidential spokesman, Thabo Masebe, said, as cited by CNN.
The Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Laureate did not receive a visa because it was not in South Africa's interest for him to attend, he added.
"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.
South Africa thinks that, if the Dalai Lama attended the conference, the focus would shift away from the 2010 World Cup, the global soccer championship it will host next year.
The Dalai Lama's fellow laureate, Archibishop Desmond Tutu, said he would boycott the event. Former president F.W. De Klerk, another laureate, backed Tutu, saying in a statement 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.
A representative of the Dalai Lama said he was not surprised by the decision. The Tibetan government in exile thinks that China has pressured many countries to refuse a visit by the Dalai Lama, according to Chhime Chhoekyapa, an aide in Dharamsala, India.
The Dalai Lama fled China in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
The peace conference was to bring together Noble Laureates and top soccer officials. In addition to Tutu and De Klerk, laureates Nelson Mandela, and Martti Ahtisaar, Seff Blatter, president of soccer's international governing body, and actress Charlize Theron were invited to attend. The event had the blessing of the Nobel Committee.
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