China has closed off access to Tibet to foreign visitors. However, the closure will only last for two months. Why is China making a move like this when it is sure to attract criticism? The move comes in the midst of some highly sensitive political anniversaries. There’s no question that Chinese officials don’t want to draw attention to tensions between Beijing and the Himalayan region.
March 10 marks 60 years since the 1959 uprising of the Tibetan people against China’s government. You may remember that anti-government riots took place in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa back in 2008. The 2008 riots resulted in attacks on a number of Chinese individuals and businesses. In addition, a number of Tibetans were killed by security forces following the riots. China’s ban on visitors in Tibet reportedly began in January of this year. The tradition of closing access to foreigners during the weeks leading up to March 10 is nothing new. Most tour companies that are permitted to operate in Tibet will attribute the travel ban to the annual celebration of the Losar Festival in February. However, this is mostly seen as a way to avoid ruffling the feathers of the Chinese government.
All foreign visitors are banned from entering Tibet until April 1. The ban covers all foreign diplomats and members of the press. Many reports have been circulating that China currently has heavy security on the ground in Tibet. The current travel ban for Tibet has been confirmed by a number of travel organizations. That includes Tibet Youth International Travel Service and Go to Tibet.
Tibet is seen as a place for spiritual pilgrimages by many people around the world. It rests on the highest plateau in the world and offers access to high mountains, stunning valleys and beautiful rivers. Many people visit Tibet in search of the Buddhist practices that are part of everyday life here. There are hundreds of monasteries and temples that can be seen when visiting Tibet. Of course, many also come to see and experience Mount Everest.
It is not unusual for access to Tibet to be closed off to the outside world. The Chinese government has been known to restrict access to tourists and foreigners whenever the political mood between Tibet and Beijing appears to be growing hostile. The stance of the Chinese government is that Tibet is a part of China’s territory. However, Tibetans and many others around the world believe that Tibet should be free. Many organizations from around the world have accused China of violating the human rights of the Tibetan people.
[Image Source: Wikimedia/ McKay Savage]