Xi Jinping has made his first visit to Tibet as Chinese president, affirming Beijing’s control over a region where its military build-up and ethnic-assimilation polices have drawn international criticism.
Xi arrived in the regional capital Lhasa on Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency said on social media. He inspected the operations of the Sichuan-Tibet railway during his visit, China Central Television said.
State media showed Xi being greeted by enthusiastic Tibetans and visiting a monastery. He was also shown riding a train with Liu He, China’s economic czar, and Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.
China has faced criticism for its policies in Tibet, which has been subject to intense social, security and religious controls, much like its northern neighbor Xinjiang. In May, Wu Yingjie, the Communist Party chief of mostly Buddhist Tibet, lauded the progress Beijing has made developing the region, saying that “religion has been increasingly compatible with a socialist society.”
Xi told officials at a meeting on Tibet issues in August last year to “actively guide Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to socialist society, and promote the Sinofication of Tibetan Buddhism.”
“To govern a country, it’s necessary to govern the border,” Xi said at the symposium, where the party discussed policies for developing the region. “To govern the border, it’s required to stabilize Tibet first.”
Xi’s visit comes about two weeks after Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, turned 86. The choice of successor to the spiritual leader of Tibetans, who now lives in exile in India, is shaping up to be a struggle between India and the U.S. on one hand and China on the other.
Senior security officials in India, including in the prime minister’s office, have been involved in discussions about how New Delhi can influence the choice of the next Dalai Lama, Bloomberg News reported in April. China’s Foreign Ministry has said the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is an internal affair that “allows no interference.” Bloomberg
( Originally published on Jul 23, 2021 )