Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet on Thursday, walking through the Barkor district and greeting passers-by on an unexpected trip not covered by Chinese state-controlled media, reported today the Tibetan service of RFA in an exclusive article.
Movement of residents in the city has been restricted and factories closed, construction work has been halted, and the iconic Potala Palace in Lhasa, the winter residence of the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, the Dalai Lama, has also been closed for the day, sources in the city said.
The flight of kites and drones in Lhasa was already banned by order of the city government, with the ban extending from July 21 to August 27, sources said.
Xi Jinping’s visit to Lhasa, capital of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), was the first since he became president of China in 2013. He had previously visited Tibet as vice president in 2011 when Chen Quanguo, now leader of the Communist Party in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), was party leader in Tibet.
Xi Jinping arrived in Lhasa on July 22, a source in Tibet told RFA. Videos obtained by the Tibetan service of RFA and circulating on social networks show the Chinese president visiting the old town of Barkor accompanied by unidentified officials.
Speaking to RFA, Tenzin Lekshay, spokesperson for the Tibetan Central Administration, Tibetan government-in-exile in India-based Dharamsala, said that while Tibet is as peaceful and stable as Chinese leaders claim, the secrecy surrounding Xi’s visit would not have been necessary.
It is now 70 years since China entered Tibet, a former independent Himalayan country, and annexed it by force, Lekshay said.
“Xi Jinping should listen to the real aspiration of the Tibetan people, which is that His Holiness the Dalai Lama return to Tibet and that the Tibetan issue be resolved,” he said.
Xi Jinping’s visit to Tibet was “certainly a surprise,” said Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch China, also speaking to RFA.
“But the reality is that the person who should roam freely around Lhasa and Barkor is His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” Richardson said, adding, “To see Xi Jinping strutting around, aware that he is the person who has doing most to oppress Tibetans, is an infuriating sight.
The visit raises many questions
The Chinese President may have visited Tibet to attend a meeting related to the 70e anniversary of the 17-point Accord, an agreement granting Chinese-forced control over Tibet under threat of military action, said Bhuchung Tsering, acting chairman of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet .
“There are situations where high-level meetings are kept secret before the visit, but in this case, there was no news of Xi Jinping’s visit to Tibet in the Chinese state media even after his visit. conclusion, ”Tsering said.
“This raises many questions,” he added.
“It is clear from the way President Xi Jinping’s visit was kept secret that there is no stability in Tibet. Therefore, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s steadfast position that the Tibetan issue should be resolved peacefully through dialogue is a solution that is in the best interests of both parties, ”he said.
The Chinese president’s visit to Tibet could also be aimed at signaling to India that Xi Jinping is prioritizing the issue of tensions along India’s border with China, where military clashes have recently taken place, said London-based Tibet specialist Robbie Barnett.
“So this is a low-key but very powerful way of saying that the Indian border issue is of major importance to Xi Jinping,” Barnett said, adding that Xi Jinping could also hope to link his visit to Tibet to the 100.e anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921.
“It’s a very extraordinary thing for him to do. This tells China that the history of the Communist Party is directly linked to the ownership and control of Tibet, ”Barnett said.
Reported by Kalden Lodoe, Yangdon, Lobsang Gelek and Tashi Wangchuk for the Tibetan service of RFA. Translated by Tenzin Phakdon and Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.
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