China Closes Tibet to Foreign Visitors For Two Months
In a move not likely to win China many popularity points among world travelers, Tibet is now closed to foreign travelers through April.
The Associated Press has reported that the decision to close the country to all foreigners during a time of sensitive political anniversaries calls into question the legitimacy of Beijing’s rule of the Himalayan region.
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According to the AP report and various other sources, foreign tourists will not be allowed into Tibet again until April 1.
The ban has been confirmed by various travel organizations including the customer service port for Tibet Youth International Travel Service, and the staff at Tibet Visa and Go to Tibet travel agencies.
March 10 marks the 60th anniversary of the 1959 uprising of Tibetan people against Chinese rule. On March 14, 2008, anti-government riots took place in the Lhasa, the capital.
The country is also almost entirely closed to foreign journalists and diplomats, the Associated Press reported. There is also reportedly heavy security on the ground in the country.
According to International Campaign for Tibet, the closure of the country is an annual occurrence.
The organization states on its website that the closure began this year on January 30, noting that some tour operators recommend that foreigners plan to begin a Tibet trip “no earlier than April 1 because of the Tibet permits restriction policy recently.”
“This most recent development is part of the overall policy of the Chinese government to restrict access to Tibet for independent observers in order to maintain an iron grip in the region while at the same time avoiding any form of external scrutiny,” states the International Campaign for Tibet website.
It was the historic 1959 uprising in Tibet that triggered the flight of Tibet’s famed traditional Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who now lives in exile in India.
That chapter in the country’s history also marked the beginning of increasingly harsh Chinese rule over the region. In 2008, protests erupted in an around Lhasa, tied to the anger over Chinese rule. Those protests resulted in attacks on Chinese individuals and businesses. An unknown number of Tibetans were killed by security forces in the aftermath, the Associated Press reported.
China has long maintained that Tibet is part of its territory and has been for at least seven centuries.