US Ambassador to China Gary Locke
DHARAMSHALA, October 17: The State Department has revealed that the US Ambassador to China last month visited the beleaguered Ngaba region of eastern Tibet, which remains the epicenter of the ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet.
Ambassador Gary Locke visited the Ngaba region in September as part of a broader trip to Chongqing and Sichuan province, State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland told reporters at a regular news conference Tuesday.
Nuland said Locke met with government officials and residents in Ngaba and visited villages and Buddhist monasteries to learn more about how Tibetans live and work.
"When he was in Aba, he met with a number of local residents, including ethnic Tibetans. He also visited villages and monasteries to learn more about how ethnic Tibetan people live and work and to have a chance to talk to them," Nuland said.
She reiterated "grave concern" by the US over the rising number of immolations and urged "better dialogue" between China and Tibet.
"We have grave concerns about self-immolations in Tibet and about the underlying grievances that the Tibetan people have. And we have consistently urged dialogue between the Chinese government and the Tibetan people with regard to those grievances," Nuland told reporters.
Ngaba is home to the Kirti Monastery, where the self-immolations began in February 2009. Since then, 55 Tibetans have set themselves on fire demanding freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.
Tibet's elected leader Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay has maintained that the "blame as well as the solution" for the self-immolation protests lie with the Chinese government.
"We have discouraged drastic actions, including self-immolations, but unfortunately Tibetans seem to be saying this is the only form of protest left, because any other form of protest the consequences is similar - you get arrested, tortured and often die," Dr Sangay told reporters.
Earlier this month, an undercover reporter for the Australia Broadcasting Corporation, who was able to gain rare access to the otherwise no-go zone of eastern Tibet, said that every Tibetan town he visited was "crawling with police."
After being chased, caught, and escorted out of Tibet, the reporter summed up his short visit saying: "Behind us is fear, resentment and tragedy, along with government policies showing no sign of winning over Tibetans."