Fri, Mar 27, 2009 - Page 6 News List

S Africa admits China’s role in Dalai Lama ban

CONSEQUENCES The government said there would be repercussions for the health minister after she publicly called on officials to apologize for barring the Dalai Lama

AFP , CAPE TOWN

The South African government has admitted it decided to bar the Dalai Lama from attending a peace conference with Nobel peace laureates to avoid undermining relations with China.

A Cabinet statement released late on Wednesday said that while South Africa had not acted on a specific demand from Beijing, it was not prepared to “jeopardize” ties nor allow itself to be used as a political platform in the run-up to the hosting of next year’s soccer World Cup.

“A choice was made in this particular case that our interests will be better served if we give priority to making sure that we don’t jeopardize our bilateral relations with China in this particular case,” government spokesman Themba Maseko said in the statement.

“The government position is that we do not want the sporting events in this country, particularly 2010 [World Cup] to be used as a platform to advance the various different causes around the world, because that diverts attention from the sporting events themselves,” he said.

The Cabinet statement also slammed South African Health Minister Barbara Hogan who has called on the government to apologize for the decision, saying there would be consequences and that it was “unfortunate that the minister chose to go to a public platform to attack a decision of government.”

Yesterday the Constitutional Court spoke out in support of Hogan, with Judge Kate O’Reagan saying she was disappointed with South Africa, which received such global praise during the fight against apartheid. She said the country seemed to have forgotten this.

“It is a matter of dismay that human rights does not seem to enter into the picture of some foreign affairs decisions that are made,” she told SABC public radio.

The conference, which was to have taken place today, has been scrapped in the wake of the row.

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