Desmond Tutu blasted the South African government Tuesday after officials delayed the Dalai Lama's visa request to attend friend Tutu's 80th birthday celebration in the country.
Tutu criticized the decision, saying "whether [the government says] so or not, they were quite determined that they [were] not going to do anything that would upset the Chinese," according to the New York Times.
After multiple failed attempts at contacting officials about the visa request, the Dalai Lama announced Tuesday that he had to cancel the trip, which was set to begin Oct. 6.
At a news conference, Tutu continued by saying the government was "worse than the apartheid government, because at least you were expecting it with the apartheid government," the Telegraph reports. (Scroll to watch a clip.)
The government's decision has ignited some protests in South Africa, the Wall Street Journal reports. Residents are concerned the government has bowed to China by blocking the Dalai Lama's entry so as not to hurt trade.
The Dalai Lama is a symbol of Tibetan resistance to China. The Chinese government has often criticized world leaders who met with the spiritual leader, the Wall Street Journal points out.
The two Nobel Prize winners have developed a close relationship over the years, with the Dalai Lama even calling the retired Archbishop his "spiritual older brother," the Los Angeles Times reports.
The South African government has said the country's trade with China had nothing to do with the decision, according to the Vancouver Sun. Officials said the Dalai Lama didn't hand in his application on time.
According to the New York Times, a statement from Dalai Lama's offices outlined that visa applications were submitted in August and passports were submitted two weeks ago.