JOHANNESBURG—The Dalai Lama on Saturday sharply criticized China, which is accused of blocking him from traveling to South Africa to celebrate Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday.
The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke with Tutu and answered questions via a video link, instead of attending an event honoring South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero a day after his birthday. Tutu asked the Dalai Lama why the global giant and South Africa’s main trade partner China feared his fellow Nobel peace laureate.
The Dalai Lama, sitting in a room decorated with orchids and silk hangings in his home in exile in India, was playful at first. He said communist propaganda portrayed him as a demon, as he raised his index fingers to his temples.
“Yes, I have horns,” he said, drawing laughter from Tutu and others watching him on a video screen at the University of the Western Cape, near Cape Town. The encounter was streamed live on the Internet, but not broadcast by South African state television as had been expected.
The Dalai Lama said for communist officials and those in other totalitarian systems, “telling lies has unfortunately become part of their lives.” He said he made Chinese officials “uncomfortable” because he tells the truth.
He added the Chinese people should be able to hear his views and judge for themselves.
“Censorship is immoral,” he said.
He also called for legal reforms in China.
“The Chinese judiciary system must raise up to international law standards,” he said.
The Dalai Lama earlier this week called off his South Africa visit after waiting weeks for a visa. South African officials deny they stalled because of pressure from China, which accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist. The Dalai Lama insists he is only seeking increased autonomy for Tibet.
Tutu, often described as South Africa’s conscience, had called the African National Congress-led government worse than the country’s former oppressive white regime for not issuing the visa. Tutu accused the government of failing to side with “Tibetans who are being oppressed viciously by the Chinese.”
South African foreign ministry officials said the visa process was delayed by problems with the timing and completeness of the application. Officials from the offices of Tutu and the Dalai Lama have denied the application was late or incomplete.
Tutu’s anger appeared to have abated Saturday. For more than an hour, two old friends brought together by technology giggled and teased one another as they exchanged views on politics and spirituality.
Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent campaign against white racist rule in South Africa. The Nobel committee recognized the Dalai Lama in 1989 for his peaceful efforts to “preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”
The Dalai Lama said he missed seeing Tutu at international events. Tutu has traveled less since retiring from public life after his 79th birthday, but remains outspoken.
“I can see your face,” the Dalai Lama said to Tutu, gazing at a monitor. “I really feel very, very happy.”
The Dalai Lama said he was looking forward to Tutu’s 90th birthday.
“Don’t forget to send me an invitation,” he said. “Then we can test your government.”