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Tibet Bans Tourists for Celebrations Again

Potala Palace in Lhasa, TibetTravel agents revealed on Monday that foreign tourists will be banned from visiting Tibet until the end of next month. This will make the second time that the region has been closed to foreign tourists this year. This ban has been put in place as China prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its rule over the region. While Chinese citizens aren’t included in the ban, everyone else will have to stay out until at least the completion of the celebrations on July 26.

A China Travel Service employee in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, told reporters that they weren’t admitting any overseas travellers right now. The agency has gotten a notice saying that the travel ban will be in place until July 26, the worker added. Aside from this, a Tibet Youth Travel Service worker also confirmed the ban, saying that it will start on Tuesday. The move is linked to celebrations that will mark the anniversary of China’s rule over the region, they added.

According to the Global Times, a travel website manager based in Lhasa has also said they won’t be accepting tourists with foreign passports. However, the manager said they will not be admitting overseas visitors until the middle of August due to concerns about safety. Meanwhile, the regional tourism bureau hasn’t commented on the reports, while a Tibetan government spokesman says he doesn’t know anything about it.

There is a lot of tension in Tibet, where its citizens accuse the Chinese government of trying to diffuse their culture. They are also concerned about what they believe is increasing domination by the majority Han ethnic group. However, the government says living standards in the region have clearly gotten better since it started ruling in 1951.

In March 2008, unrest turned into violent anti-government riots in the capital, and these spread to neighbouring provinces where a significant number of Tibetans live. Foreign travellers were banned from visiting the region for over 12 months during the unrest. Then this year, in March, foreigners were banned from entering Tibet ahead of the 3rd anniversary of the riots, as well as to mark the 52nd anniversary of China’s suppression of a Tibetan national uprising. However, visitors have been able to enter the region since April.

Even when there is no travel ban in place against foreigners, visiting Tibet is still rather tedious. Authorities require overseas visitors to get special permits along with their Chinese visas, while they also have to travel in tour groups. Since the 2008 unrest, the country has increased security in the region. However, there are still reports of unrest, with one region in the Sichuan province being hit with demonstrations earlier this year following a Tibetan monk setting himself on fire. He was said to have done this in protest against the government.

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