South African PEN is protesting the South African government’s failure to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama to attend fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu’s private 80th birthday celebration this past weekend.

Deputy President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe. Photo by Michael Wuertenberg for the World Economic Forum

South African PEN denounced the South African government’s “three month dallying under the pretense of ‘considering’” the Dalai Lama’s visa application, which forced the Dalai Lama to cancel his planned visit. “The government’s conduct effectively amounts to a South African—in this instance Desmond Tutu—being denied the enjoyment of the constitutional rights of citizenship,” PEN wrote. This is the second time the Dalai Lama has not been issued a visa to visit South Africa in two years. In 2009, the government denied a visa application for the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference because of fears that a visit would overshadow the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The latest visa flap comes against the backdrop of a diplomatic visit by South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to Beijing, and is being widely criticized in South Africa as a concession to the Chinese government. South African PEN’s protest parallels PEN American Center’s efforts to counter ideological exclusion in the United States, most recently by pressing the government to grant a travel visa for leading human rights advocate Kerim Yildiz, who arrived in the country in time to receive the Gruber Foundation’s 2011 Justice Prize in Philadelphia on October 6.   Read South African PEN’s full statement.