Leading official makes first visit to occupied area
The U.S ambassador to China has encouraged others to visit Tibet and learn more about the unique Tibetan culture.
Last month, Ambassador Gary F. Locke, visited the Ngaba Prefecture in Tibet. The visit was low key, and only confirmed when a reporter for The New York Times got hold of the story.
First visit to Tibet
According to The New York Times, this was Mr Locke’s first visit to Tibet.
“I went to Aba [Ngaba] Prefecture to see for myself”, he said. “I was struck by the unique Tibetan culture and met many ethnic Tibetans to learn more about how they live and work, such as an 88-year-old monk at one of the monasteries I visited. Ethnic diversity adds richness to a society.”
“I hope others will make the same visit,“ he added.
Mr Locke visited two monasteries in Songpan, about 100 miles east of Ngaba Town. Access to Ngaba Town itself, and many other parts of the Tibetan plateau, is being severely restricted by Chinese authorities.
“Grave concerns about self-immolations”
While the visit was not made in secret, and Chinese officials were aware of it, Mr Locke seems to have attempted to keep it out of the news. Only when asked directly at a news briefing in Washington, a State Department spokeswoman confirmed the visit.
“We have grave concerns about self-immolations in Tibet and about the underlying grievances that the Tibetan people have,” she said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not made an official comment regarding Mr Locke’s visit.
Translating concerns into action
Whilst Free Tibet welcomes the opportunity given to the U.S ambassador to visit Tibet, general access to the region must be improved. The town of Ngaba, where many of the self-immolations have taken place, is under tight security and has a heavy military presence.
The U.S. Government should take this opportunity to ask for increased access to Ngaba and other areas of Tibet in order to monitor the situation in the region.
Photo: Embassy of the United States in China