Tuesday, March 24, 2009

South Africa Makes Huge PR Blunder

What's up with South Africa not allowing the Dalai Lama into the country?

According to various news reports, the South African government denied a visa to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, because his presence would have distracted attention from South Africa and drawn it instead to the contentious debate over the status of Tibet.

The spiritual leader was to attend a peace conference meant to promote the 2010 World Cup.

Thabo Masebe, a government spokesman, said on Monday that the Tibetan leader’s presence “would not be in South Africa’s best interests.”

A statement by the organizers of the peace conference said the participants had been told that “the only purpose of their visit to South Africa would be for the purposes of participation in the conference and not any other public engagements as these could take away from the purpose for which the conference was intended.”

The conference, which was to have begun Friday, had been organized by South African soccer authorities.

Three of South Africa’s Nobel laureates had invited the Dalai Lama to attend. The government’s move to deny him entry drew sharp condemnations.

Critics of the decision, including Archbishop Tutu who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, said South Africa had caved in to China, which has aggressively sought to extend its influence across Africa in recent years.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China said at a news conference this month that foreign countries should stay away from any involvement in the Tibet issue.

“We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure,” Mr. Tutu told a South African newspaper, The Sunday Tribune, a statement his office confirmed on Monday. “I feel deeply distressed and ashamed ... If His Holiness's visa is refused, then I won't take part in the coming 2010 World Cup-related peace conference. I will condemn [the] government's behavior as disgraceful, in line with our country's abysmal record at the United Nations security council, a total betrayal of our struggle's history," he said.

MY POV: Talk about bad publicity.

Isn't the World Cup about peace, inclusion, world harmony? What kind of message does this send to the rest of the world?

South Africa is creating a maelstrom for itself that doesn't need to exist. If the World Cup is indeed about inclusion, the Dalai Lama should be allowed entry into the country.

This is an issue that unfortunately shouldn't be an issue.

As with everything concerning a global event, sooner or later this was bound to happen.

I hope South African authorities come to their senses and let the spiritual leader into the country. Any other decision will look extremely petty.


Sam said...

Hey just thought I'd let you know I linked this article on my blog. I found out about your blog cause Nick Walsh writes for both of us.



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