The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, canceled a trip to South Africa planned for this week that had put Pretoria in a bind between its biggest trading partner China and one of its modern heroes, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu. The Dalai Lama’s office said on Tuesday he canceled the trip intended for him to attend Archbishop Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration because South Africa, which has had his application paperwork for weeks, had not issued him a visa on time.
Last week, China agreed to $2.5 billion in investment projects with South Africa during a visit by South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to Beijing. South African President Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) government had come under pressure from China not to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate Beijing sees as a dangerous separatist.
Tutu said the government’s action was a national disgrace. “I really can’t believe it. The discourtesy is mind blowing,” an emotional Tutu told a televised news conference from Cape Town. He said the government’s decision was reminiscent of how blacks were treated under apartheid and ignored how the South African masses were helped by the international community to end the oppression of white-minority rule.