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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 
language.

   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 
significance."

   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 
detention centers.

   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.


(CZ)

 
 
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