Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Refusal to Submit to Authoritarian Orders

For the first time ever I really wish I were a Nobel Laureate. Of course I deserve it for my brilliant writing, but actually I want to be one of the group that canceled its meeting rather than go on without the Dalai Lama when he was denied a visa.

Thank you, Nobel people who will not be party to the government cowardice that had to be instrumental in making this vile gesture. The Dalai Lama is offensive to no one and no country except to China, and to China only because he symbolizes a country that just won't be supine before their demands. Thanks, Nobel Laureates, for refusing to join this oppression.

A peace conference for Nobel laureates in South Africa has been postponed indefinitely after Pretoria refused the Dalai Lama a visa, organisers say.

This week's meeting in Johannesburg was linked to the 2010 Football World Cup, which the country is hosting.

A storm of controversy erupted over the ban, with the government being accused of bowing to Chinese pressure.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African President FW de Klerk pulled out of the meeting in protest.

Despite the controversy surrounding the decision, government spokesman Thabo Masebe confirmed that no visa would be issued "between now and the World Cup".

Saying the move did not amount to a ban, he told the BBC that no other government had forced the decision on South Africa.

The visa had been declined because the Dalai Lama's presence "would not be in the best interests of South Africa at this time", he said.

The government spokesman told Reuters news agency that the presence of the Dalai Lama risked distracting attention from the World Cup.

'Spirit of peace'

The conference, scheduled for Friday, was intended to discuss football's role in fighting racism and xenophobia.

But the chairman of the South Africa 2010 Organising Committee said the conference was being postponed indefinitely.

"The convenors have... decided in the spirit of peace to postpone the South African peace conference to ensure it is held under conducive conditions," Irvin Khoza was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
Archbishop Tutu has branded the government's decision as "disgraceful" and accused the government of "shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure", a sentiment echoed in the local media.

Chinese officials in Pretoria said Beijing had warned against allowing the Dalai Lama into the country, saying it would harm bilateral relations.

There may be room in international affairs for kowtowing to the Chinese in some areas, but to let that repressive regime taint their own country's record is a huge error on the part of South Africa. A statement that says that China is offended by exercise of another country's freedoms is offensive, and should be treated that way.

Any peace conference that would let its government dictate certain peace organizations are making trouble - by a refusal to be cowed into accepting repression - would not be a peace conference worthy of the movement's heritage.

You have earned the respect of the world. I am hoping the U.S. can join you, Nobel laureates, in earning that respect by leaving the company of violators of the Geneva conventions very soon.

(Call anytime.)

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