China closes Tibet to foreigners amid sensitive anniversaries

China closes Tibet to foreigners amid sensitive anniversaries
Tibetan Buddhist monks attend an event of showing a huge thangka (sacred painting on cloth) depicting Buddha during the Monlam Great Prayer Festival, at Labrang Monastery, in Xiahe, an ethnically-Tibetan town in Gansu province, China, this week. Pic: EPA

China is preventing foreign travellers from visiting Tibet for several weeks amid a pair of sensitive political anniversaries questioning the legitimacy of Beijing's rule over the Himalayan region.

Travel agencies said foreign tourists would not be allowed back into Tibet until April 1.

A Tibetan Buddhist monk performs the Cham Dance ritual during the Monlam Great Prayer Festival, at Labrang Monastery, in Xiahe, an ethnically-Tibetan town in Gansu province, China, this week. Pic: EPA
A Tibetan Buddhist monk performs the Cham Dance ritual during the Monlam Great Prayer Festival, at Labrang Monastery, in Xiahe, an ethnically-Tibetan town in Gansu province, China, this week. Pic: EPA

It is not clear when the ban started, although some monitoring groups said it began this month.

The ban was confirmed by the online customer service portal of the Tibet Youth International Travel Service, as well as staff at the Tibet Vista and Go to Tibet travel agencies.

Both are based in the south-western city of Chengdu - the main jumping-off point for visits to Tibet.

An Ethnic Tibetan man holding a child looks at a huge thangka (sacred painting on cloth) depicting Buddha during the Monlam Great Prayer Festival, at Labrang Monastery, in Xiahe, an ethnically-Tibetan town in Gansu province, China, this week. Pic: EPA
An Ethnic Tibetan man holding a child looks at a huge thangka (sacred painting on cloth) depicting Buddha during the Monlam Great Prayer Festival, at Labrang Monastery, in Xiahe, an ethnically-Tibetan town in Gansu province, China, this week. Pic: EPA

March 10 is the 60th anniversary of an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, while anti-government riots occurred on March 14 in 2008, in the regional capital Lhasa.

Although the foreigner travel ban is an annual occurrence, the occasion of the 60th anniversary is drawing added attention.

Amid heavy security on the ground, Tibet is almost entirely closed to foreign journalists and diplomats and information about actual conditions there is difficult to obtain.

The 1959 uprising resulted in the flight of Tibet's traditional Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile in India.

Nearly five decades later, anger exploded in a series of protests in and around Lhasa that culminated in attacks on Chinese individuals and businesses in which the government says rioters killed 18 people.

An unknown number of Tibetans were killed by security forces in the aftermath.

China claims Tibet has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries and regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist.

Many Tibetans insist they were essentially independent for most of that time and have protested against what they regard as China's heavy-handed rule imposed after the People's Liberation Army battled its way into the Himalayan region in 1950.

More on this topic

Coronavirus fears fail to dampen Chinese new year celebrationsCoronavirus fears fail to dampen Chinese new year celebrations

Cases of new viral respiratory illness rise sharply in ChinaCases of new viral respiratory illness rise sharply in China

Abhijit Banerjee: China and India can do so much more to help their citizensAbhijit Banerjee: China and India can do so much more to help their citizens

Secret documents reveal how China mass detention camps workSecret documents reveal how China mass detention camps work

More in this Section

Nissan shareholders vent spleen at managementNissan shareholders vent spleen at management

Coronavirus study prompts optimism despite death toll riseCoronavirus study prompts optimism despite death toll rise

Apple warns of coronavirus impact on resultsApple warns of coronavirus impact on results

British woman swept away by Storm Dennis floodwater is found deadBritish woman swept away by Storm Dennis floodwater is found dead


Lifestyle

Des O'Sullivan takes a look at Bill Wyman's Rolling Stones memorabiliaRolling Stones memorabilia going under the hammer

All ages can suffer from spots across their back but thankfully, there are many things we can do about them, says Jennifer RockThe Skin Nerd: back to basics to treat the pesky plague of ‘bacne’

Roz Crowley tests eight coffees ahead of Fairtrade FortnightEight of the best fairtrade coffees to try

Steel Panther give metal fans the chance to let their hair down and laugh at themselves, and the Cork audience is in party mood.Live review: Steel Panther at Cyprus Avenue

More From The Irish Examiner