BEIJING (Reuters) - China allowed a senior U.S. Congressional delegation to visit Tibet, including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a long time critic of China's human rights record, a Chinese politician said on Thursday.

At a meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Zhang Ping, vice chairman of China's largely rubber stamp parliament the National People's Congress, greeted Pelosi and asked how her trip to Tibet was.

Pelosi's response was not audible to reporters present and there were no other details available immediately. The trip had not been officially announced ahead of time.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since it was "peacefully liberated" by People's Liberation Army troops in 1950, and trips by Western reporters and political figures are vanishingly rare.

Rights groups and exiles say China tramples on the cultural and religious rights of Tibet's Buddhist people. China strongly denies the charges and says it has bought much needed development to what was a backward region.

Pelosi made no mention of Tibet in her remarks in front of reporters in the formal part of the meeting. Zhang, also in the formal part of the meeting, noted that the delegation had also been to Hong Kong before going to Tibet.

Pelosi has regularly spoken out about human rights issues in Tibet and has met the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, a man reviled by Beijing as a violent separatist. He says he simply wants real autonomy for Tibet.

Jim McGovern, chair of a Congress Human Rights Commission, is traveling with Pelosi as part of the delegation.

The U.S. Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.