China denies visa to former Norwegian PM

China refused to issue a visa this week to former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who had been scheduled to chair a meeting at a World Council of Churches conference in Nanjing on Monday.

Bondevik, who currently serves as president of the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights, learned on Friday that he was the only member of a 30-person delegation not to be granted a visa by the Chinese authorities, newspaper Aftenposten reports.

“I view this as unfortunate,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll manage to have the meeting without me but I would have liked to be there of course.

“I can only assume that, almost two years after Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Chinese are still trying to make a point.”

The Christian Democrat politician and Lutheran minister said he had not been given a reason for the rejection of his application. Instead he was told that the Chinese embassy in Oslo had not received the necessary authorization from Beijing.

Although he had nothing to do with the decision to award the Peace Prize to the human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, Bondevik said he guessed the Chinese authorities had most likely learned of his positive comments about the award.

Norwegian diplomats tried unsuccessfully to resolve the matter. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour Party) said he found it difficult to understand the decision to deny Bondevik a visa but added that it ”fits into a pattern”.

Bondevik twice served as Prime Minister, from 1997 to 2000, and from 2001 to 2005.

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