Africa

South Africa court action over Dalai Lama visa dispute

Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, northern India (July 2011)
Image caption China regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist leader

South Africa's opposition has called for a judicial review of the government's failure to give the Dalai Lama a visa earlier this month.

He was forced to cancel plans to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday celebrations after his application was not considered in time.

The government denied it had bowed to pressure from China to block the trip.

The opposition has filed papers in the High Court to demand a review of the decision.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Congress of the People (Cope) said Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma acted unlawfully by referring the visa application to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.

New invitation

The Immigration Act did not allow the minister to "duck, dive and run away like a guilty, scolded child", IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini said.

The government has not yet commented.

The IFP said its leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, had since invited the Dalai Lama - the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people - to visit South Africa during Human Rights Day celebrations in March.

Image caption Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the failure to grant the Dalai Lama a visa was a disgrace

"Twice I have planned and hoped to meet you to pray together, receive your spiritual guidance, and discuss the state of the world and its politics," Chief Buthelezi said in his letter to the Dalai Lama, South Africa's Times Live news website reports.

China sees the India-based Nobel Peace laureate, who campaigns for the rights of the Tibetan people, as a dangerous separatist leader.

It has pushed for his international isolation, appealing to governments to refuse to meet him.

Pretoria denied it had bowed to pressure from Beijing and said the Dalai Lama had cancelled his trip before his application could be processed.

Archbishop Tutu accused the government of behaving "worse than the apartheid government".

The Dalai Lama eventually delivered a lecture at Archbishop Tutu's birthday celebrations via a video link.

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