DHARAMSHALA, September 15: China has once again cut off Tibetan areas from the outside world with fresh travel restrictions on foreign visitors.
According to several tour operators, China stopped issuing travel permits for foreign visitors from September 1, Travel Weekly reported.
The restrictions, the third time this year alone, follows closely on the heels of recent announcements of multi-million dollar tourist projects in the region, aimed at promoting Tibet as a world tourist destination.
Although the duration and the reason behind the latest move is not officially known, observers believe that the restrictions could be part of precautionary measures in the lead-up to the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress, due to take place sometime in late 2012.
“Right now, China is not allowing anybody in,” Will Weber, co-founder and co-director of Journeys International, told Travel Weekly.
“Last year they did the same thing,” Anita Captain, director of Greaves Tours said. “Last year it lasted for a month and this year, no idea. They don’t give a reason.”
In June, China stopped issuing travel permits
to outside visitors just ten
days after the May 27 self-immolation protests by two young Tibetans, Dorjee Tseten and Dargye, in the nation’s capital Lhasa.
Earlier this year Tibet was again cut off beginning mid-February through March, encompassing two important events; the Tibetan New Year from February 22-24 and the Tibetan national uprising day commemorated on March 10.
China had made obtaining permit for travel to Tibet more stringent by requiring that people travel in a group of five or more, and all be of the same nationality. As of August the Tibet Tourism Bureau still restricted permits from being issued to citizens of six countries: UK, Norway, Korea, Austria, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Following the ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet, Chinese authorities have implemented a massive security drive aimed at expelling Tibetans from eastern Tibet and also from outside Lhasa to their native regions.
The global rights group Human Rights Watch in a July release noted that China’s “extreme measures” adopted in response to the May 27 self-immolation protests could further “deepen” tensions in the region.
“This arbitrary expulsion of people because of their ethnicity or place of birth is clearly discriminatory and violates their basic rights to freedom of movement and residence,” HRW said.
Phayul had earlier reported that Tibetans from eastern Tibet and outside Lhasa, including those who have lived in Lhasa for many years with permanent residence and businesses, are being forcibly expelled.
Chinese security agencies are stopping and searching Tibetans in Lhasa, asking them to produce five different kinds of official papers to legalise their stay in the capital city, failing which they are being sent back to their native villages and towns.