Tibetans sent a petition to the Liaison Office of South Africa in Taiwan yesterday to protest against the South African government’s denial of a visa to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to attend a Nobel peace conference in Cape Town next month.
Representatives from the Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association and Regional Tibetan Youth Congress in Taiwan went to the Liaison Office of South Africa yesterday, expecting to hand a petition to South African Representative Musawenkosi Aphane to express their regret over the South African government’s refusal to grant the visa.
However, Aphane refused to meet them in person, association chairman Tashi Tsering said.
“This is the third time that we have been prevented from meeting the representative to hand over a petition,” Tashi said.
The last time was two or three years ago, when the South African government refused to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama to visit Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his birthday celebrations, Tashi said.
“South Africa is a country that has suffered political repression and authoritarian rule before and now as a democracy upholds values such as human rights and democracy,” Tashi said, adding that it was disappointing to see it bow to authoritarian China’s pressure.
“His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] was invited to and attended events in South Africa when the country was newly democratized. It was not economically dependent upon China then, but it is now, after getting more developed,” association vice chairman Tenzin Namda said.
Tashi said he considered it “a little impolite” for the representative to refuse to meet them, saying that their petitions were personally received by American Institute in Taiwan officials and Japanese representatives on other occasions.
“When the person who received our petition said the office representative could not get involved in ‘political activities,’ I was a bit offended. I told her that if this was a ‘protest,’ I could have brought 100 protesters to the office shouting slogans,” he said.
“How is this kind of rhetoric different from the Chinese government, which has constantly accused various religious activities in China of being ‘political’ in essence [and suppressed them]?” he added.
Tibetans around the world are responding to the call and taking actions to express their concerns over the visa denial to their local South African representative offices or embassies, Tashi said.
“I’ve been told that archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu has also expressed his disapproval in South Africa,” he said.
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