US ambassador to China Gary Locke in a file photo. (Photo/Reuters)
DHARAMSHALA, June 27: The US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke is currently on a rare official visit to Tibet where he met with local officials and raised concerns over the human rights situation in the region.
This is the first visit by an American ambassador to central Tibet since 2010.
Nolan Barkhouse, Press Spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, told Phayul over phone that Ambassador Locke will be in Tibet till June 28.
“Ambassador Locke is accompanied by his family members and other embassy officials, including the US Consulate General to Chengdu,” Barkhouse said. “The purpose of the visit is to familiarise with local conditions.”
He added that Ambassador Locke met with local officials and raised concerns over the human rights situation in the restive region.
Since 2009, as many as 119 Tibetans living under China’s rule have set themselves on fire demanding freedom and the return of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile.
The Chinese government has responded with even harsher policies, barring Tibetans from offering prayers and showing solidarity with families of self-immolators, criminalising the self-immolation protests and sentencing scores of people to heavy prison terms on charges of “intentional homicide” for their alleged roles in the fiery protests.
Last year in September, Ambassador Locke visited two Tibetan monasteries in the Zungchu region of Ngaba, which is at a safe 100 miles (160kms) east of Ngaba town – the epicentre of the ongoing wave of self-immolations – as part of a broader business trip to the region.
Following his visit, he said the self-immolations were “very deplorable
” and urged China to show respect for Tibetans’ religion, culture, and language.
“Nobody wants that type of action, or of people having to resort to that type of action. Too many deaths,” Ambassador Locke had said.
“We implore the Chinese to really meet with the representatives of the Tibetan people to address and re-examine some of the policies that have led to some of the restrictions and the violence and the self-immolations."