State media confirms Xi Jinping in Lhasa for celebrations

 Reports in China’s official media confirm that Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is currently in Lhasa, leading a central government delegation of 59 senior Party, government and military officials – including Chen Bingde, the People’s Liberation Army Chief of Staff – to “attend a series of celebrations” marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the “17 Point Agreement” by the Chinese and Tibetan governments. (“Central gov’t delegation arrives in Lhasa for Tibet Peaceful Liberation Celebrations,” Xinhua, July 17, 2011

Rumors that Mr Xi – who is almost certain to succeed Hu Jintao as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and as State President – was expected to arrive in Lhasa started circulating late last week, and appeared to be supported by a sudden security crackdown above and beyond the already highly visible and intimidating paramilitary presence throughout Lhasa and other parts of Tibet. The border with Nepal was closed and sources report that unusually stringent security measures were put in place at Lhasa Airport.

Reports suggest that events marking the anniversary will take place on Tuesday July 19; however, travel agencies and tour guides in the region report that restrictions on travel to Lhasa and other parts of the Tibet Autonomous Region will last until around July 25.