- Chinese Embassy caught off guard and in shock
- Government unofficially aware of visit
- Visit kept under wraps and not publicized
- Khama vowed to defy China and invite Dalai Lama
Following the abrupt cancellation of his visit to Botswana last year after the Chinese government warned the government of Botswana against welcoming him here, it seems the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has finally found his way into the country through his protégé Dr Lobsang Sangay.
The Botswana Gazette can confirm that while the Chinese government is not aware of Sangay’s visit to Botswana, the Tibetan political leader quietly arrived in the country and will today (Tuesday) deliver a public lecture titled ‘The Role of Youth in 21st Century- Towards a More Peaceful World’, at Botho University (lecture theatre 3). Sangay, also referred to as Sikyong is described as the democratically elected leader and political successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. While Dalai Lama’s botched visit to Botswana was intensely publicised, this time the organisers avoided publicity and opted to send out invitations privately to students and the youth across the country.
Born September 5, 1968 in Darjeeling, Sangay is the president of Tibetan-government-in-Exile, officially known as Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). He has been chief executive of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile since 8th August 2011. Following the election, at the request of the 14th Dalai Lama, the Tibetan parliament-in-exile amended the organisation’s bylaws to remove the Dalai Lama’s role as ceremonial head of state, making Sangay its highest leader.
In an interview with this publication yesterday (Monday), the Chinese Embassy Director of Political Section in Botswana, Tang Shenping expressed shock at news of Sangay’s presence in the country. After requesting to be given time to consult his colleagues, Shenping called back and revealed that no one at the embassy seemed to be aware of Sangay’s visit, let alone the event he was scheduled to headline. He however would not give the Chinese government’s position on Sangay’s visit. The Botswana Gazette investigations show that Sangay entered Botswana using an American passport, which might explain why his visit eluded the Chinese government.
Reached for comment, Government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay said they were not informed of the visit officially, he had heard about Sangay’s visit through some people involved in his assignment in Botswana. On whether the Chinese government had raised any objection with the Botswana government, Ramsay said no objection had been raised. ‘‘Surely the Chinese government will not be amused by his visit,’’ Ramsay said in a short interview on Monday.
This publication contacted Botho University who confirmed the event at their venue while pointing out that their role was only limited at providing the venue for the event.
The Dalai Lama’s planned visit to Botswana last year August caused diplomatic tension between China and Botswana after government granted VISA to the Tibetan spiritual leader, who is also Nobel Peace laureate. There were even reports that China had threatened to close their embassy as a sign of protest and suspend all trade with Botswana should Botswana allow Dalai Lama into the country. Dalai Lama cancelled his trip to Botswana at the eleventh hour, citing health problems. A defiant President Khama later gave media interviews where he blasted China for trying to dictate who should and who should not be allowed entry into Botswana. At the time, Khama was quoted in the media as having said “We allowed him because the Dalai Lama has not done our country any harm and China’s enemies are not Botswana’s enemies.” Khama emphasised at the time that Dalai Lama was welcome to visit Botswana whenever he wished.