Botswana president Ian Khama has told China the country won’t allow any form of intimidation as if they are being colonised by the latter.
He said this after Dalai Lama cancelled his planned visit to the country citing exhaustion. The move, observers said, was likely to be
welcomed by China.
“We are not your colony,” Khama’s said following his diplomatic standoff with China in recent weeks.
The Dalai Lama was set to make a private visit the capital Gaborone for August 17 to 19, according to officials.
Still, Khama was set to meet with the spiritual leader, riling the Chinese.
“They told me things like the ambassador may be recalled, it would damage relations between Botswana and China that they would as China engage other African states to isolate Botswana,” Khama told Botswana Guardian newspaper on August 17.
Visits by the Dalai Lama to foreign countries infuriate China, and it stepped up warnings to Botswana last month, with its Foreign Ministry spokesman demanding “the relevant country earnestly respect China’s core interests and make the correct political decision on this matter”.
Botswana reacted by saying that as a sovereign state, it retained the right to permit anyone to enter the country.
The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, has long been at loggerheads over Tibet with China, which brands him a reactionary and separatist. The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, says he seeks greater rights, including religious freedom, and true autonomy for Tibetans.
In a statement late on Friday the Dalai Lama’s office said his doctors had advised him to avoid undertaking long journeys for the next few weeks.
“During the past few weeks, His Holiness has found that carrying out his activities has left him unusually tired,” it said.
“Although he had been eagerly looking forward to visiting Gaborone … His Holiness has reluctantly had to concede that his 82-year old body was telling him to rest.”
China’s fast-growing demand for raw materials has made it one of the biggest investors in Africa and its largest trade partner. Chinese state-owned companies have been awarded contracts to build roads, dams, power stations and airports in Botswana.