Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who is also a Lutheran pastor, has been denied a visa to China where he was scheduled to be a moderator at a World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting in Nanjing, the daily newspaper Aftenposten reported on 12 June.
Bondevik told reporters in Oslo that the visa denial may be linked to the 2010 decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, writes Olvind Ostrang.
The WCC's General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said in a statement that "we are disappointed and surprised that the visa ... was not approved," according to an Associated Press report.
Tveit was reported as saying that the Chinese government had approved the meeting and knew Bondevik would moderate. The 9 to 16 June meeting of the WCC's international affairs commission is focusing on issues of poverty, market reforms and understanding China's churches, among other topics.
The visa denial "is very unfortunate for the work planned and undertaken by the commission," Tveit said.
In 2002, when he was Prime Minister, Bondevik paid an official visit to China. He was received by then-President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji. At that time, relations between Norway and China were "excellent," he told Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation on 12 June.
Since 2007, Bondevik has been a (Lutheran) Church of Norway member of the WCC's commission on international affairs. He was prime minister from 1997 to 2000 and from 2001 to 2005.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee is independent of the Norwegian government. Having no political post in 2010, Bondevik expressed his satisfaction with the award, as did representatives of the present government.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]