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Tibet tourist travel ban may last three months

Foreign tourists have been banned from travel to or in Tibet for an unstated period covering the anniversary of the violent 2008 anti-government protests.

Travel to Tibet normally requires a permit from the Chinese government, but foreigners are now being refused permission to enter the country due to a ban which may last as long as three full months. The government has ordered all travel agents in the region to refuse permits to overseas visitors.

A representative of the Xizang Tourist General Company based in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, told reporters all March arrivals had been halted, adding the company is still waiting for notification from the government regarding the granting of travel permits during April and May.

The riots by supporters of a free Tibet took place mostly in Lhasa in March 2008, resulting in a bloody crackdown by Chinese forces which caused at least 22 deaths.

The Chinese government, as usual, blamed the unrest of Buddhist followers of the Dalai Lama, the former religious and political Tibetan leader, now in exile in Dharamsala in northern India.

Following the riots, all foreign tourists were banned from the country for a year, with the ban extended to an annual cover of the weeks around the 14th March anniversary of the riots. Chinese top officials in Lhasa earlier this month blamed the present ban on ‘overcrowding and freezing weather’ citing ‘control measures for safety reasons’.

Zhang Quingli, Communist party secretary for Tibet, told reporters at a Beijing political meeting the region was ‘stable’, adding the ‘Dalai Lama Clique’ had been attempting to stir up unrest during the anniversary, but were prevented by the Chinese forces’. Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet over 50 years ago, millions of Han Chinese have been settled in the region, causing fears the unique and ancient Tibetan culture will be eradicated.

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