Nobel peace summit cancelled over Dalai Lama visa row, Nobel laureates visit Dharamsala in show of support

DHARAMSALA, Oct 1: The 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to be held in Cape Town, South Africa has been cancelled after a group of six laureates decided to boycott the event over South African government’s refusal to grant a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader and a winner of the coveted prize in 1989.MG_1163

“We are proud to say that the protest by the women Nobel laureates had resulted in the end of the Nobel peace summit in South Africa. It has been cancelled because enough Nobel laureates refused to go,” Jody Williams, the American Nobel peace prize winner and anti-landmine activist made the statement at a press conference held in Dharamsala on Oct 1.

Jody Williams made the statement at a press conference held in Dharamsala on Oct 1. Along with Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel laureate, who won the prize in 2003 and a delegation from Nobel Women’s Initiative, including its executive director Liz Bernstein, Jody Williams is in Dharamsala to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the conferment of Nobel peace prize to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

At the press conference attended by elected head of the Tibetan people, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the two Nobel laureates, Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi expressed deep concern over South African government’s denial of visa to His Holiness under Chinese pressure.

“When we first learned that the Nobel summit this year would be held in Cape Town, South Africa hosted by President De Clerk, a Nobel laureate, Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Laureate and the woman mayor of Cape Town, we immediately sent a note expressing our deep concern that this site has been chosen given the history of South Africa in bending to Chinese pressure and refusing to allow His Holiness to visit. A level of confusion was made for many of us that he was even not allowed a visit in terms of going to celebrate Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday. How that could possibly be a threat to the government of China was extremely confusing for us,” said Jody Williams and added

“Nobel Women’s Initiative sent two letters to the organizers and we did media interviews expressing our dismay and decision to boycott the summit in Cape Town. In our letter, we underlined that His Holiness the Dalai Lama advocates the Middle Way Approach and not the Chinese government’s propaganda that His Holiness is seeking Tibet’s separation from China.”

She further said that by denying a visit to His Holiness, South African government has not only violated the human rights of His Holiness but they are also denying the human rights of the people of Tibet.

Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel laureate from Iran said, “Some eight years ago when the invitation to His Holiness was withdrawn under Chinese pressure to a Nobel peace summit held in the country of Costa Rica whose President was himself a Nobel laureate, none of us participated in that summit in order to show the government of China that the people of Tibet and His Holiness are not alone.”

“Unfortunately this time it happened again in South Africa. There is a history of fighting against racial discrimination in South Africa and that’s why we do not accept this country to refuse giving a visa to His Holiness three times,” she said.

Ebadi also expressed astonishment at Archbishop Desmond TuTu’s silence on the issue.

“I’m very surprised that he has taken to silence this time. I know that Desmond Tutu is not part of the government. But what I’m surprised is that he is not speaking openly like the rest of us. Let’s remember that whoever decides to stay silent in front of a dictator, that person is contributing to the crime of dictatorship,” she said.

Drawing similarities between the government of China and the government of Islamic Republic of China in jailing poets, journalists and human rights defenders, she reasoned that the people of Iran are with the Tibetan people because both are in the same position.

“I’m not only here to support His Holiness but I’m also here to learn from His Holiness and the Tibetan people how to be in exile for over 50 years and not lose hope,” she noted and concluded by saying, “Rest assured that we will be victorious once we keep our solidarity and hope. And I’m sure that I will be talking to you in a free Tibet.”

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