China President Xi Jinping makes first official rare visit to Tibet in many years
Xi arrived at the Nyingchi Mainling Airport and was warmly welcomed by local people and officials of various ethnic groups, Xinhua news agency reported.
Beijing: China’s President Xi Jinping this week became the first Chinese leader in many years to visit Tibet, affirming Beijing’s control over a region where its military build-up and ethnic-assimilation policies have drawn international criticism.
Tibet has alternated over the centuries between independence and control by China, which says it "peacefully liberated" the rugged plateau in 1951 and brought infrastructure and education to the previously underdeveloped region.
But many exiled Tibetans accuse the central government of religious repression and eroding their culture.
Xi arrived at the Nyingchi Mainling Airport on Wednesday and was warmly welcomed by local people and officials of various ethnic groups, Xinhua news agency reported. He then visited the Nyang River Bridge, to inspect the ecological preservation in the basin of the Brahmaputra river, which is called Yarlung Zangbo in the Tibetan language.
Nyingchi is a prefecture-level city in Tibet that is adjacent to the Arunachal Pradesh border. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet, which is firmly rejected by India.
Radio Free Asia published a video of Xi walking along a street lined with cheering people, and the Chinese leader waving from the open window of a minibus. Robert Barnett, a British academic who has written about Tibet, posted videos showing Xi speaking to Tibetans.
“All regions and people of all ethnicities in Tibet will march toward a happy life in future,” Xi says in a video Barnett posted. “I am full of confidence as you all are. Lastly, I will not delay your dancing. Let me say this: I wish everyone a happy life and good health.”
Xi’s visit to Lhasa and the Potala Palace is expected to mark the anniversary. His visit to the border region and Nyingchi assumes particular significance coming a month after China started operating the first bullet train line in Tibet, linking Lhasa to Nyingchi near the border with Arunachal Pradesh.
Xi has visited Tibet twice, once in 1998 as Fujian province's party chief and another time in 2011 as vice-president.
The last Chinese President to visit was Jiang Zemin in 1990.
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