The Dalai Lama sharply criticized censorship in China as “immoral” during a video chat with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
The exiled Tibetan leader spoke with Tutu Saturday from Dharamsala, India. The Dalai Lama had planned to visit his friend and fellow Nobel peace laureate in South Africa for Tutu’s 80th birthday this week, but the South African government refused to issue a visa.
Showcasing the government’s action to keep the Dalai Lama away, Archbiship Tutu’s Peace Center placed an empty chair on stage at the event held at the University of the Western Cape near Cape Town.
During the videoconference, the Dalai Lama accused Chinese officials of telling lies and being uncomfortable with people who tell the truth. He said China’s 1.3 billion people should have free access to information in order to make up their own minds about what is right or wrong.
He also urged China to raise its judiciary up to international standards.
The Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama a Tibetan separatist, a claim the spiritual leader denies. Two years ago, the South African government rejected a visa application from the Dalai Lama following overtures from Beijing. China is a major trading partner with South Africa.
Also Saturday, the Dalai Lama told Tutu that he was looking forward to the retired archbishop’s 90th birthday, saying they could test the South African government again to see if it would allow him entry.
On Friday, parishioners, politicians and rock stars gathered at Cape Town’s historic St. George’s Cathedral to celebrate Tutu’s birthday.
Hundreds of people lined the pews in the church where Archbishop Tutu once preached against apartheid.
U2 lead singer Bono serenaded the archbishop and called Tutu the only rock star in the room.
Nelson Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, and South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe also attended.
In his birthday greeting to the archbishop, President Zuma said the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is admired by “thousands.”