Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives and one of the most prominent supporters of the Dalai Lama worldwide, made an unannounced visit to Lhasa, Tibet, this week, meeting the Communist Party chief of the region.

Nancy Pelosi, who has been one of the most forceful critics of China’s policies and human rights record in Tibet, is leading a delegation of Congressional Democrats on a trip to China. The delegation has not yet made a statement about her visit or spoken to reporters, but prior to going into meetings today at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Ms. Pelosi said she had shared views on Tibet following her visit and hoped that “some of that conversation will be useful.”

The official newspaper Tibet Daily reported today that during her visit to Lhasa she had met the Party chief Chen Quanguo, who had warned that the U.S. government should “commit to not supporting activities aimed at splitting China” and that it should not allow the Dalai Lama to visit the United States.[1]

Tibet Daily stated that the delegation had “toured a Tibetan temple, school and a residential home, and had frank and thorough exchanges with leaders of the TAR [Tibet Autonomous Region], people from different ethnicities, monks and nuns, thereby deepening the delegation’s comprehensive understanding of Tibet.”[2]

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “We welcome this initiative by the US Congressional delegation led by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. The visit is evidence that Ms. Pelosi and the United States Congress care deeply about Tibet, and it also sends a strong signal to the Chinese authorities that access to Tibet is of great concern to the U.S. government, putting Tibet squarely back in the spotlight of international diplomacy.”

The Chinese state media, not surprisingly, has already put its own spin on the visit, claiming that Ms. Pelosi praised the Chinese government’s policies.[3] This is consistent with the usual practice by official Chinese news organizations in selectively or inaccurately quoting prominent visitors for propaganda purpose.

Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo is known for his hardline approach and describes Tibet as the ‘teeth of the storm’ in a ‘struggle of the ideological realm’.[4] In comments published in the Chinese state media on the day before Pelosi’s visit to Tibet, he underlined the imperative of extinguishing inner loyalty to the Dalai Lama among Tibetan officials and preventing them from attending teachings in exile.[5] The importance of the ‘anti-separatist struggle’, with Tibet as the ‘battlefield’, is emphasized at the highest levels in Beijing.

Among the Congressional delegates on the visit to Tibet with Nancy Pelosi was Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), who was instrumental in introducing bipartisan legislation to promote travel by Americans to Tibetan areas where access is routinely denied by Chinese authorities. The bill, H.R. 1112, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2015, was introduced by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) on February 26, 2015. The premise of the bill is that if China does not allow foreigners into Tibet, then Chinese officials with oversight on Tibet should not be allowed to visit the United States.[6]

In June, Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights and US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, drew attention to the fact that over the last four years, 35 of 39 requests made by the U.S. Embassy or Consulates to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region were denied. Speaking at a side panel to the U.N. Human Rights Council on June 15, 2015, Under Secretary Sewall said: “While Chinese diplomats and journalists travel freely throughout the United States, our diplomats and journalists are not afforded the same access to Tibet.”[7]

Joining Pelosi on the trip were Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz of Minnesota, Joyce Beatty of Ohio and Alan Lowenthal and Ted Lieu of California.

[1] The full quote from Chen Quanguo translated from the Chinese by ICT is as follows: “On Tibet-related issues, it is hoped that the American side will abide by and respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, will commit to not supporting activities aimed at splitting China, not allow the 14th Dalai Lama to wander through again [visit the U.S and elsewhere speaking about Tibet], and not provide any form of support or facilitation to the separatist activities of the ‘Tibetan Independence’ forces.” The statement about not allowing the Dalai Lama to “wander through again” is intended to convey the frequently expressed criticism by the CCP that the Dalai Lama ‘internationalizes’ the Tibet issue through his international travels and meetings with leaders worldwide.

[2] Tibet Daily, November 12, 2015, in Chinese (translation in the text of this report is by ICT):

[3] ICT translation from Chinese of the relevant comments in the Tibet Daily article: “Nancy Pelosi gave high praise to the huge changes in the new Tibet, and to the hard work of the Chinese government in protecting religious freedom, preserving traditional ethnic culture, and protecting the ecology and environment, among other things. She said that because of the great efforts of the Chinese government, the standard of living for Chinese people, including Tibetans, has notably improved; people all over the world acknowledge this, and for this, you have reason to feel proud. Nancy Pelosi said she hopes the two countries can increase their exchanges and cooperation on issues concerning ecological and environmental protection, and that they should vigorously strive to deal with global climate change.”

[4] ICT report, https://www.

[5] In Chinese,

[6] ICT press release, February 27, 2015, https://www.

[7] The full speech is at: