JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's embassy in New Delhi has denied travel documents to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, barring him from attending a peace conference in Johannesburg, activists said Sunday.
The Dalai Lama had planned to join other Nobel peace prize winners including Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk at a conference Friday to discuss ways of using soccer to fight racism and xenophobia, as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup.
South African Friends of Tibet said in a statement that the Dalai Lama has been denied travel documents, saying the country's high commissioner in New Delhi had asked the Dalai Lama to postpone his trip.
"We believe that the barring of his holiness from the peace conference makes a mockery of the intentions of this conference," the group said in a statement.
The Sunday Independent newspaper quoted China's minister counsellor at the embassy in Pretoria, Dai Bing, as saying that his government had urged South Africa to deny the visit, warning it would harm bilateral relations.
Dai told the paper that it was an "inopportune time" for the Dalai Lama to visit, coming just after the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against China's rule of Tibet, which led to the exile of the Dalai Lama, the region's most revered spiritual figure.
The paper quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a spokesman for de Klerk as saying they would reconsider their participation in the conference if the Dalai Lama were not allowed to come.
"We are shamelessly succombing to Chinese pressure. I feel deeply distressed and ashamed," Tutu told the paper.
De Klerk has expressed concern to the president and the foreign ministry over the visa, said Dave Steward, spokesman for his foundation.
"If the visa is not granted, Mr de Klerk and other laureates will reconsider their participation in the event, and this would not be a good thing for South Africa and the World Cup," he told the paper.