America’s ambassador to China has publicly acknowledged a late September visit to China’s western frontier, a region which has seen numerous self-immolations by Tibetans in protest of Chinese rule, according to The New York Times:
The ambassador, Gary F. Locke, visited two Tibetan monasteries on Sept. 26 as part of a trip to western China. The monasteries, which have not been involved in the 55 self-immolations across the Tibetan plateau since 2009, are in Aba Prefecture of Sichuan Province, the area where almost two-thirds of the Tibetans who have set themselves on fire lived.
It was Mr. Locke’s first trip as ambassador to a part of China where most of the people are ethnic Tibetans.
“I went to Aba Prefecture to see it for myself,” Mr. Locke said in a brief statement in response to questions from The New York Times. “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.”
He continued, “I hope others will make the same visit.”
A U.S. State Department spokeswoman also confirmed Locke’s trip on Tuesday, according to the report. The New York Times published the above photo, which originally appeared on Twitter and which shows Locke shaking hands with a Tibetan monk. The South China Morning Post published the photo as well, and reported that Locke may have made the trip with Beijing’s approval:
Tibetan settlements in China are often off-limits to foreigners. The then executive vice-minister of the Communist Party Central Committee’s United Front Work Department, Zhu Weiqun , said last year that China would “never allow foreign forces to interfere in China’s internal affairs by any means”, when asked
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