Xi visits Tibet amid mounting restrictions on religion


BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made a rare visit to Tibet as authorities tighten their controls on traditional Himalayan Buddhist culture, accompanied by an accelerated drive for economic development and modern infrastructure.

State media reported Friday that Xi visited sites in the capital, Lhasa, including the Drepung Monastery, Parkor Street and the public square at the base of the Potala Palace that was home to the Dalai Lama, the traditional spiritual and temporal leaders of Tibet.

Xi’s visit had previously been unannounced in public and it was not clear if he had actually returned to Beijing.

In recent years China has tightened its control over Buddhist monasteries and expanded education in Chinese rather than in Tibetan. Critics of such policies are routinely detained and could receive lengthy prison terms, especially if convicted of association with the 86-year-old Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet during a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

China does not recognize the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile based in the hillside town of Dharmsala, and accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to separate Tibet from China.

Meanwhile, domestic tourism has expanded greatly in the region during Xi’s nine years in office, and new airports, railways and highways have been established.

While in Lhasa on Thursday, Xi sought “to learn about work on ethnic and religious affairs, preservation of the ancient city, as well as the heritage and protection of Tibetan culture,” Xinhua said.

The day before, he had visited Nyingchi to inspect conservation work in the Yarlung Cangpo River Basin, the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra River, where China is building a controversial dam.

He also visited a bridge and inspected a project to build a railway from southwest China’s Sichuan Province to Tibet before boarding the first electric railway in Tibet from Nyingchi to Lhasa, which entered service last month.

Xi’s visit may coincide with the 70th anniversary of the 17-Point Agreement, which firmly established Chinese control over Tibet, and which many Tibetans say has been de facto independent for most of its history. The Dalai Lama says he was forced to sign the document and has since rejected it.

It also comes amid deteriorating relations between China and India, which share a long but disputed border with Tibet.

Last year’s deadly confrontations between Indian and Chinese forces along their disputed high-altitude border radically altered the already fraught relationship between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

This apparently prompted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate the Dalai Lama on his birthday this month on Twitter and said he had also spoken to him over the phone. It was the first time Modi had publicly confirmed his speaking with the Dalai Lama since he became prime minister in 2014.

In a statement, the International Campaign for Tibet in Defense of China called Xi’s visit “an indication of how high Tibet is in Chinese policy considerations.”

The manner in which the visit was organized and “the complete absence of any immediate government media coverage of the visit indicate that Tibet remains a sensitive issue and that the Chinese authorities do not trust its legitimacy among the Tibetan people.” The group is based in Washington, D.C., he said.

Like it? Share with your friends!


What's Your Reaction?

hate hate
confused confused
fail fail
fun fun
geeky geeky
love love
lol lol
omg omg
win win


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *