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Nobel Summit Could Be Canceled in Light of Dalai Lama Controversy

FILE - Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, during a visit to Hamburg, Germany.

A summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners to be held in Capetown could be canceled because of a boycott to protest South Africa's refusal to give a visa to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Six female laureates canceled their visit to South Africa after the government denied the Dalai Lama entry to the country last month. The six accuse China of pressuring countries to curb interactions with the Dalai Lama, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is set for Capetown from October 13 to 15. But the city of Cape Town is reportedly scheduled to announce the cancelation on Thursday. No new date or venue for the summit has been arranged.

One of the six boycotting laureates, American Jody Williams, said at a press conference in the Indian town of Dharamsala that she was proud the protest resulted in cancelation of the summit. She also said she and the five other Nobel winners were surprised when South Africa denied the visa.

"When we first learned that the Nobel summit this year would be in Cape Town, South Africa, hosted by President de Klerk, a Nobel laureate, Archbishop Tutu, a Nobel laureate and the woman mayor of Cape Town, we immediately sent a note, expressing our deep concern that this site had 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 visa in terms of going to celebrate Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday. How that could be a threat to the government of China was extremely confusing to us," said Williams.

This would have been the first summit of its kind in South Africa.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of being a Tibetan separatist, an accusation that he denies.

He says he accepts Chinese rule and only wants more Tibetan autonomy and human rights. He also denies China's assertion that he encourages Tibetan separatists to set themselves on fire as a form of protest.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet in 1959.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.