A planned summit of Nobel peace prize laureates in Cape Town next week has been suspended after South African authorities refused to grant the Dalai Lama a visa to attend, prompting Tibet's spiritual leader to accuse Pretoria of "bullying".
Authorities in Cape Town on Thursday "suspended" a planned summit of Nobel peace prize laureates, blaming the "intransigence" of the government in Pretoria in refusing to grant a visa to allow the Dalai Lama to attend.
"After extensive discussion and deliberation, it has been decided that the 2014 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, planned for 13-15 October 2014 in Cape Town, will be suspended," the municipal authorities said in a statement.
In a speech earlier on Thursday at his monastery in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama said the summit had been cancelled because "the South African government wouldn't allow me to attend".
"This is sort of bullying a simple person," he said at a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of his 1989 Nobel peace prize.
Several Nobel laureates had pulled out of the summit in protest at Pretoria's failure to grant the visa.
The exiled Tibetan leader thanked his fellow peace laureates for their efforts, saying they had "worked hard" to resolve the issue.
South Africa has been criticised in the past for refusing to grant the Dalai Lama a visa – reportedly under pressure from China, which regards the 79-year-old as a separatist.
Tibet's spiritual leader, however, says he only wants more autonomy for Tibet.
The ceremony in Dharamsala was attended by two fellow laureates – Jody Williams, founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi – both of whom are also boycotting the South Africa summit.
Williams said Pretoria had been inflexible on the matter.
She went on to accuse President Jacob Zuma's government of "selling its sovereignty" to China.
"We could not go, and the message we were sending ... was a message of protest to China. It was a message of protest to governments who sell their soul and their sovereignty to China, as South Africa did," she said, garnering loud applause from the audience of hundreds of Tibetan refugees.
The Tibetan National Congress, which is a pro-independence movement, said the boycott had highlighted the failures of "the bullying tactics of the Chinese government".
"We thank these esteemed Nobel laureates for standing on the side of justice, and for standing up to the Chinese government," Tibetan National Congress president Jigme Ugen said in a statement.
The Dalai Lama was welcomed to South Africa in 1996, when he met with Mandela.
But in 2009 the South African government kept him from attending a similar Nobel laureates’ peace conference, saying it would detract attention from the 2010 World Cup, which was being hosted by South Africa.
In 2011 the government again decided not to issue the Tibetan leader a visa, a move that retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu – himself a 1984 Nobel Prize laureate for his non-violent campaign against apartheid – slammed as “disgraceful”.