US Ambassador in China Visits Tibet 05/20 06:28
The U.S. ambassador to China is making a rare visit to Tibet to meet local
officials and raise concerns about restrictions on Buddhist practices and the
preservation of the Himalayan region's unique culture and language.
BEIJING (AP) -- The U.S. ambassador to China is making a rare visit to Tibet
to meet local officials and raise concerns about restrictions on Buddhist
practices and the preservation of the Himalayan region's unique culture and
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said Terry Branstad is visiting the Tibetan
Autonomous Region and neighboring Qinghai province from Sunday through
Saturday. Qinghai is a traditionally Tibetan region also known as Amdo and the
birthplace of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader.
Branstad's visit will include official meetings along with visits to
religious and cultural heritage sites, schools, and "other places of interest,"
the embassy said in a statement.
The embassy called the visit "a chance for the ambassador to engage with
local leaders to raise longstanding concerns." It said Branstad would also
"learn first-hand about the region's unique cultural, religious, and ecological
China tightly restricts access to Tibet by foreigners, especially
journalists and diplomats. In response to the lack of access, the U.S. Congress
last year passed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which denies entry to the
United States for anyone "substantially involved in the formulation or
execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas."
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many
Tibetans say they were effectively an independent nation for most of that time.
Beijing's control was most recently asserted when the Communist Party's
military wing, the People's Liberation Army, invaded the region in 1950.
In recent years there has been a significant tightening of control over
Tibetan Buddhism, use of the Tibetan language and traditional culture.
Following anti-government protests in 2008, Beijing imposed a policy of "grid
policing" that significantly reduces travel and social life, methods
subsequently imposed in the traditionally Muslim neighboring region of
Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of residents have been confined to
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China welcomed Branstad to
witness the "earth-shaking changes in the people's production and life since
Tibet's peaceful liberation more than 60 years ago."
"I hope that this visit to Tibet can help Ambassador Branstad make a
conclusion without prejudice in the spirit of respecting the facts ... instead
of being confused and disturbed by some long-standing hearsay and defamatory
speeches," Lu said.