Wed09202017

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Botswana confirms His Holiness the Dalai Lama visit despite China anger

Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, Botswana Foreign Ministry. Photo: File
Gaborone — Botswana Government on Tuesday (Jul 25) confirmed it will allow His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit next month as "a foreign dignitary" in the face of China's fierce opposition to the spiritual leader of Tibet. China views the spiritual leader of Tibet as a dangerous separatist campaigning for Tibetan independence and consistently condemns foreign governments who welcome him.

Botswana Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi told lawmakers that the visit was "purely private" but added that the Dalai Lama would be granted the status of a foreign dignitary,' AFP, Channel News Asia, reported on 25 July 2017.

She did not confirm a government announcement last week that he would meet President Ian Khama, which prompted a stern response from Beijing.

However the president will "extend basic courtesies for Dalai Lama" and the government protocol office "is charged with the responsibility to facilitate foreign dignitaries ... this includes Dalai Lama," the foreign minister said.

Venson-Moitoi also said in a parliamentary answer that "the principle of non-interference in the international affairs of other countries is at the core of China's foreign policy". "We therefore expect ... China to respect our sovereign decision on this matter."

The Tibetan leader, who lives in exile in India, is due to speak at the three-day "Mind and Life Dialogue" conference in Botswana's capital Gaborone on Aug 19. Venson-Moitoi expressed the hope that the visit would not "diminish the existing strong bonds" between the two countries.

China is a key investor across Africa and the continent's largest trade partner and in Botswana it has helped build coal-fired power plants, road networks, bridges and schools. His Holiness the Dalai Lama says he is seeking more autonomy for Tibet rather than outright independence.

Botswana, one of Africa's most stable countries, is the continent's longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.

Sparsely populated, Botswana protects some of Africa's largest areas of wilderness. Safari-based tourism - tightly-controlled and often upmarket - is an important source of income. Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.

The country has had its share of problems: It once had the world's highest rate of HIV-Aids infection. UN figures for 2014 suggest that for adults aged 15 to 49 the prevalence rate is 25%. The country also has one of Africa's most-advanced treatment programmes, according to media reports.

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