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Government refuses to grant Dalai Lama visa to attend and speak at peace conference

(FXI/IFEX) - The following in an FXI press release:

FXI CONDEMNS THE GAGGING OF THE DALAI LAMA BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT

FXI condemns the gagging of the Dalai Lama by the South African Government ("Government"), which amounts to a serious violation of the South African public's constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression on grounds that are unjustified and ill-founded.

The Government has refused to grant the Dalai Lama a visa to enter South Africa to attend and speak at the South African Peace Conference, organised by the South African 2010 Local Organising Committee, which was scheduled to take place in Johannesburg at Constitutional Hill this week.

The purpose of the conference was to engage issues of racism and xenophobia and the role of soccer in promoting peace in this regard. The delegation of participants that were to speak at the now postponed conference included Nobel Peace Prize winners, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president Mr F.W de Klerk, and the executive director of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Mr Geir Lundestad.

The Government is on record as stating that the decision to ban the Dalai Lama from visiting South Africa is based on the view that it would have distracted attention from South Africa and drawn it instead to the contentious debate over the status of Tibet and that this would not be in the best interests of South Africa. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has also stated that South Africa has formed relations with China and is thus required and entitled to nurture this relationship.

The Government's decision to ban the Dalai Lama, who himself has fought against human rights abuses in Tibet and is viewed internationally as a human rights and peace activist, flies in the face of our hard won struggle for peace, freedom and democracy. To refuse the public the right to hear what the Dalai Lama has to say on issues that are extremely close to the hearts of most South Africans is a blatant disregard of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the values and principles enshrined therein. It would seem as though the Dalai Lama is being punished for his advocacy for human rights which amounts to a form or censorship. Such behaviour on the part of the Government cannot be condoned.

FXI is equally concerned about the Government's stance on Minister Barbra Hogan's public statement on the matter and her right, as a member of Cabinet, to speak out on matters of manifest public interest.

The Government has described Barbra Hogan's statements as rather unfortunate in that she chose to attack a decision of Government on a public platform regardless of the fact that she is a member of a collective.

FXI fully supports Minister Hogan's right, both in her personal and official capacity, to speak out against the human rights violations of the South African Government.

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