US legislator Nancy Pelosi led an unannounced congressional delegation to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa during a visit to China this week.
Pelosi is a longtime critic of China’s human rights record in Tibet, which been under Chinese control since 1950. Earlier this year, Pelosi joined the Dalai Lama to celebrate his 80th birthday:
Pelosi’s visit was reported by the state-run newspaper Tibet Daily, and confirmed by Hong Lee, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, according to the New York Times.
Pelosi said very little about her Tibetan visit upon arriving in Beijing. Reuters reports that the head of Chinese parliament, Zhang Dejiang, asked to hear Pelosi’s impressions of Tibet. Pelosi said she had shared her views in an earlier meeting, and hoped “some of that conversation will be useful as we try to talk about some other subjects as well.”
On an earlier trip to China in 2009, Pelosi was denied permission to visit Tibet. According to US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, Beijing was “fearful” of her visiting the area. In 2008, Pelosi met with the Dalai Lama as violent protests surged in Tibet.
“If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world,” Pelosi said at the time. Since the riots, Tibet has been mostly off-limits to foreigners, although then-US ambassador Gary Locke made a low-profile visit in 2013 during a wave of self-immolations by Tibetans to protest Chinese rule.