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Dalai Lama to join Tutu birthday talk by videolink

The Dalai Lama, barred from entering South Africa to celebrate Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday, will join a videoconference on Saturday from India where he lives in exile, Tutu’s Peace Centre announced.

Former archbishop Tutu’s last-ditch appeal to the South African government on the eve of his birthday to grant a visa to the Tibetan spiritual leader was rejected Thursday, marring the start of the celebrations.

The Dalai Lama said Tuesday he had been forced to cancel his trip due to delays with his visa, prompting a furious Tutu to accuse President Jacob Zuma of kowtowing to China, which considers the Dalai Lama a “splittist”.

“The inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture will proceed on Saturday at the University of the Western Cape, with His Holiness, the XIVth Dalai Lama joining the event via live videolink from Dharamsala, his home-in-exile, in India,” the Peace Centre announced late Thursday.

The Dalai Lama and Tutu “will engage in a moderated discussion on the topic, Peace and Compassion as Catalysts for Change. This is the topic that His Holiness was to have spoken on had he been allowed to enter South Africa by the authorities,” the Peace Centre said in a statement.

“An empty chair on the stage will symbolise His Holiness’ enforced absence.”

The event will be broadcast live by South Africa’s public television network SABC from the University of the Western Cape and live-streamed over the Internet.

The university was set up in 1960 under the apartheid regime and went on to become a home to opponents of the white minority government. Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, served as its chancellor for 23 years.

The Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has visited South Africa three times before and was welcomed by former president Nelson Mandela. But South Africa denied him a visa in 2009, openly admitting it feared alienating key trade partner China.

He had been invited to give an inaugural lecture on Saturday, wrapping up three days of events around the archbishop’s birthday.

The celebrations began Thursday inside St George’s Cathedral, where Tutu rallied for all-race democracy as Anglican archbishop of Cape Town.

China has always sought to curb the Dalai Lama’s overseas travels, warning host governments that any visit would harm ties, especially if he is met by state officials.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile since 1959 when he fled an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.