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Tibet Says Dalai Lama Barred from Earth Summit

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/08/26; August 26, 2002.]

By Manoah Esipisu

JOHANNESBURG, August 25, 2002 (Reuters) -- Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has been barred from visiting South Africa for the Earth Summit this week because of pressure from China, Tibetan officials said in Johannesburg on Sunday.

The Dalai Lama, 66, winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace prize, is revered by Tibetans as the reincarnation of a long line of Buddhist kings. He fled his Himalayan home in 1959 when an uprising failed, nine years after China imposed Communist rule.

"The Dalai Lama will not be coming," said Tsering Yangkey, the head of the environment and development desk in Tibet's India-based government-in-exile.

"The South African authorities will not let him and this is because of Chinese pressure," she told Reuters.

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said she was unaware whether the Dalai Lama had been barred: "I don't know. It hasn't come to my notice," she told Reuters.

It would not be the first time, however, that pressure from Beijing had prompted other states to deny entry to the Tibetan spiritual leader -- Russia also did so this month.

The Dalai Lama attended the previous Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago. About 100 world leaders are expected in Johannesburg for the finale of the 10-day meeting next week.

China reviles the Dalai Lama, saying he uses religion as a cloak for a political campaign for separatism. He says he wants greater autonomy for Tibet, not independence, and is ready for talks with Beijing.

China has also objected to the accreditation to the Earth Summit of several Tibetan environmental and other lobby groups.

Three of them plan to attend parallel events in Johannesburg during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which starts on Monday, Tibetan officials said.

Yangkey said she came to South Africa in the name of the Tibet Environment and Development Organisation, the only Tibetan non-governmental agency accredited for the forum.

Several Buddhist monks, flown in from a Tibetan shrine in India, were praying on Sunday at the NGO's stand at the summit's parallel venue in an industrial district south of Johannesburg.

"We brought the monks to symbolise peace," Yangkey said.

"Just as South Africa triumphed over apartheid, so can we also triumph over Chinese rule."

(Additional reporting by David Clarke)

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