China’s Xi Jinping makes surprise visit to Tibet

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made an unannounced visit to Tibet, according to International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). Video clips shared on Chinese social media on Thursday show Xi addressing people in the city of Nyingtri (Chinese: Linzhi), stepping out of a shop in the Barkhor area in Lhasa, and giving remarks to the public while facing the “Monument to the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” in front of the Potala Palace, the traditional winter residence of the Dalai Lama.

A recent official notice announcing the closure of the Potala on July 22 indicated a visit by a high-level dignitary, but the fact that Xi was visiting caught many observers off guard. According to sources, the visit may have been linked to the 70th anniversary of the controversial 17 Point Agreement, which China falsely claims marks its “peaceful liberation of Tibet,” but which Dalai Lama has renounced as an agreement made under duress. A source told the ICT that Xi first landed at Mainling airport in Nyingtri, in southeast Tibet, on July 20. This time, he said, he came to meet the people in Nyingtri first, telling them that not a single ethnic group should be left behind in the efforts to fully build a modern socialist China. A source told ICT that Xi may also visit one of the monasteries in Lhasa, possibly Drepung Monastery, during this trip.

While heavy security is expected for a visit by Xi anywhere, it is unusual that even Chinese state media did not report about his visit to Nyingtri and Lhasa, even though two days have already passed since his arrival.