Mar 31, 2009

Tibet: Reopened For Tourists

Active ImageThe Chinese government will reopen Tibet to foreign tourists on April 5 after a nearly six-week ban.
Below is an article published by: The New York Times

The Chinese government will reopen Tibet to foreign tourists on April 5 [2009] after a nearly six-week ban, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua.

Foreign tourists were barred from visiting Tibet in late February [2009] before the 50th anniversary of a failed rebellion against Chinese rule. Security was stepped up in the Tibet Autonomous Region and border areas. The anniversary passed on Saturday [28 March 2009] without serious unrest.

Bachug, the head of Tibet’s tourism department, told Xinhua on Sunday [29 March 2009] that the region is “harmonious and safe now” for tourists. Mr. Bachug, who like many Tibetans uses only one name, said more than 100 foreign tour groups have registered to visit Tibet.

An uprising in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa March of last year [2008] led to the deaths of at least 19 people, most of them Han Chinese civilians. Hundreds of protesters were detained. Exile groups claim that 220 monks, nuns and other Tibetans died and more than 1,000 were injured in the ensuing crackdown.

Determined to head off any renewed unrest this year [2009], the government dispatched thousands of troops and police officers across western China, creating an unofficial state of martial law.

YouTube was blocked for most of last week [March 2009] in China and again on Monday [30 March 2009], apparently because of a video that purports to show the police brutally beating Tibetans after last year’s riots. Without identifying the video, Xinhua reported that Tibetan separatists had fabricated a video of police misconduct.

Foreign reporters are barred from Tibet, but the Chinese news media reported limited unrest over the past six weeks. In the most serious skirmish, nearly 100 people, most of them monks, were arrested in a Tibetan area of northwestern China after a crowd attacked a police station on March 21, authorities said. Chinese officials said 13,000 people in Lhasa celebrated Saturday [28 March 2009], the anniversary of the day China took control of Tibet and forced its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile. The state-run media posted photographs of smiling Tibetans playing tug of war and other games in commemoration of what the Chinese government terms “Serf Emancipation Day.”

China claims it has invested heavily in Tibet’s social and economic development and that stability has increased tourism. In the first two months of the year [2009], 120,000 domestic and foreign tourists visited Tibet, a jump of about 5 percent over the same period last year [2008], according to the regional tourism bureau.