Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Former Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama / South Africa and China

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama
Image Source
In the past I supported calls for South Africa supplying the Dalai Lama with a visa to visit South Africa. See here. My main motivation was the importance of freedom of religion and freedom of expression. The recent controversy leaves me slightly less sympathetic. The Dalai Lama was invited by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu to attend his 80th birthday celebrations. Tutu was born on 7 October 1931. My question must be, what was Archbishop Tutu thinking? He must have known that South Africa will again deny the Dalai Lama his visa, because of South Africa's strong ties with China. His invitation only brought humiliation on the Dalai Lama and put South Africa in a negative light. Or was that the purpose? The Dalai Lama gains much international sympathy from such China-related dismissals.

What I've mentioned thus far has probably been said by many other news analysts. So here are my two cents:

First, South Africa ought to give a clearer message as to why they are against the Dalai Lama's visit. At present we only look like a puppet of China, which, as the economic leader in Africa, we definitely do not want to come across as. Of course our camaraderie with China cannot be denied, but the government's media spin doctors can definitely come up with a better story. For instance, Tibetan Buddhism is surprisingly quite patriarchal and even misogynistic. Modern orthodox Tibetan Buddhism preaches that it is practically impossible for a woman to attain enlightenment. In future reincarnations they first need to be born as a male. Then there are the use of female sex “volunteers” by the highest level Lamas as part of their tantric practices. For more on this, read June Campbell's personal account as a Tibetan Buddhist insider. You can read an interview with Campbell here. If South Africa were to motivate its decision to deny a visa for the Dalai Lama on more grounds than just its ties with China, for example Tibet's religious subjugation of women, it would get much less backlash from the many South Africans who are looking favourably on the friendly Dalai Lama.

Second, it is not covered in the mass media, but on more than one account have I heard of military bases (at least two that I know of) manned by Chinese soldiers in South Africa. What is the purpose of two Chinese military camps on South African soil? One estimate that I recently heard of counts the number of Chinese soldiers in the thousands. Now this is something we South Africans ought to find much more disconcerting than South Africa's denial of the Dalai Lama's visa. Is South Africa in some greater Chinese grip, something much worse than mere economic relations, than most of us are aware of? This is the real story that needs to get media attention.

Things like Information Security Bill gets a much more sinister tone if scene with the aforementioned as a backdrop.

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