The U.S. Embassy in China says the American ambassador is in Tibet to check out conditions and meet with residents and officials on a rare trip to a region where travel by foreigners is tightly restricted.
Gary Locke’s three-day local government-organized trip in and around the region’s capital, Lhasa, ends Friday.
U.S. embassy deputy spokesman Justin Higgins said it is the first time Chinese authorities have approved embassy requests to visit Tibet since September 2010.
The embassy says that Locke has lobbied for opening access to Tibet to foreign diplomats, journalists and tourists and stressed the “importance of preserving the Tibetan people’s cultural heritage.”
China restricts journalists’ access to Tibetan areas of western China and to Tibet itself. Foreign tourists must apply for special permits to visit Tibet.