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China Objects to Photographic Exhibition on Tibet

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/02/25; February 25, 2002.]

Durban, South Africa,
Tibet Society of South Africa
Thursday 21st February 2002.

The Consul-General of the People's Republic of China in Durban met with the curator of the NSA Gallery to lodge a formal complaint about its forthcoming exhibition to be hosted by the Tibet Society of South Africa. Mr. Renato Palmi, representing the Tibet Society of South Africa, was present at the meeting.

The photographic exhibition, entitled "The Truth about Tibet", will be exhibited at Durban's popular art gallery from the 26th February to 17th March, with a special function scheduled for March 10th to commemorate the 1959 Lhasa Uprising.

Dressed in suits and sporting a lapel badge of the flags of the PRC and South Africa, Mr. Zhu Zhanchao, the Consul-General and his interpreter, Mr. Wang Xisheng, formally objected to the exhibition being displayed in South Africa. "The bilateral relationship between South Africa and the People's Republic of China is threatened by such activities," said Mr.Zhanchao.

"The NSA Gallery is encouraging splittist activities which do not promote the unity of all China."

The curator of the NSA Gallery, Mr Storm van Rensburg, replied that the gallery reserves the right to hold the exhibition in accordance with the South African Constitution's provision for freedom of speech. He further stated that "the NSA Gallery, in mounting the exhibition, encourages and welcomes public debate on issues of human rights."

The Consul-General expressed his concern that organisations like the Tibet Society of South are damaging the good relationship between the PRC and South Africa, claiming that "the Dalai Lama is not a religious person but a political agitator who encourages misrepresentation of China," He submitted that Tibet had been part of China since the 13th Century and that before the "great reforms", the Tibetan people had been subjugated by and ruled with harshness by the Dalai Lama and wealthy landowners. "After 40 years of reform, there are positive changes inside Tibet; the Tibetan people's standard of living has improved, and there is freedom of religion. Tibet has undergone democratic reforms and seeing is believing" said the Consul General.

The Consul-General ended the meeting with a warning that the NSA Gallery should desist from holding the exhibition "before it gets worse." In response, the gallery's curator invited the PRC to lodge their complaint in writing and if necessary, approach the media with their objections to the content of the exhibition on Tibet.

After the meeting ended, Mr. Xiusheng handed over a brochure entitled "Seeking Fresh Development in the New Century", the PRC's version of the "true Tibet". The cover sports a colour photograph of the Potala Palace, former winter home of the Dalai Lama, with two smiling Tibetans in traditional dress holding a video camera.

The NSA Gallery assured Mr. Renato Palmi, representing the Tibet Society of South Africa, that the exhibition would be displayed despite the Consul-General's protests.


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