China’s Xi visits Tibet for first time as president

china tibet-1627040036302
A man holds a girl as they pose for a photo in front of a large mural depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping, bottom centre, and other Chinese leaders at a public square at the base of the Potala Palace in Lhasa in western China’s Tibet Autonomous Region on June 1, 2021. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made a rare visit to Tibet. Image Credit: AP

Beijing: China’s President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous Region on July 21-22, according to the official Xinhua news agency, in his first recorded visit as leader of the nation and the first visit to Tibet by the country’s leader in three decades.

Xi flew into the city of Nyingchi on Wednesday and took a train to Tibetan capital Lhasa the following day along a section of the high-elevation railway being built to link the mountainous border region with Sichuan province.

In Lhasa, Xi visited a monastery and the Potala Palace Square, and “inspected ethnic religion work” and Tibetan cultural heritage protection, according to Xinhua.

The palace is the traditional home of Tibetan Buddhism’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who is in exile and has been branded a dangerous separatist by Beijing.

In Nyingchi, he also inspected rural rejuvenation and environmental protection.

Photos released by Xinhua show Xi was accompanied by Zhang Youxia, a vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission and a senior general in the People’s Liberation Army.

Xi was last in Tibet in 2011, when he was vice president.

Tibet’s high altitude, which can take a toll on leaders not accustomed to the climate, is another reason why China’s top leaders rarely visit Tibet, he said.