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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China reverses plan to reopen Tibet to tourism

April 12, 2008

Tania Branigan in Beijing
The Guardian (UK)
April 10, 2008

This article was first published on uk on Thursday April 10
2008. It was last updated at 15:49 on April 10 2008.

The Chinese authorities appear to have U-turned on plans to allow
foreigners back into Tibet next month amid fears that protesters could
disrupt the Olympic flame's trip to the summit of Everest.

Their decision comes in the wake of demonstrations which have dogged the
torch relay on its passage through London, Paris and San Francisco and
look set to continue in other cities.

The flame's trip to the top of the world's highest mountain has been
described by the Chinese organisers as one of the highlights of its tour
- and by Tibetan support groups overseas as its most contentious stop.
They argue that it symbolises China's control of the region.

Tibet's tourism authority announced last week that the region would
reopen to foreign holidaymakers on May 1, having been closed to
non-Chinese travellers since riots broke out in Lhasa in mid-March.

But today travel agents said the bureau had ordered them to stop
arranging such trips, citing the need to secure safe passage for the
Olympic torch relay to Everest in early May.

While the main flame continues its journey around the world, another
flame was taken from the lighting ceremony in Beijing to Tibet because
experts predicted the best conditions for an ascent would be next month.

Officials had closed the north face of Everest before last month's riots
began - citing environmental concerns - and persuaded Nepal to block
access. Many believe they fear a repeat of last year's protest by five
US mountaineers, who unfurled banners calling for Tibetan independence.

An employee at the Tibet China Youth Travel Service, based in Lhasa,
told the Associated Press news agency: "We received the emergency notice
from the tourism bureau that, considering the safety of the torch which
will go
to Mount Everest in May, agencies are not allowed to receive tourist
groups and foreign tourists."

He added that the government's decision would hurt Tibet's burgeoning
tourism industry, but that he expected trips to resume after the torch
relay to Everest.

An employee of the Tibetan Tourism Bureau confirmed that changes have
been made to the original decision to reopen the region.

Yesterday, Tibet's governor, Qiangba Puncog told a press conference:
"For these separatist forces, the Olympics in Beijing will be a rare

"I don't doubt they will create trouble during the torch relay in
Tibet," he said.

The main torch will also pass through Tibet in June, on its way back to
Beijing for the opening ceremony of the games.

The People's Armed Police (PAP) newspaper reported today that commanders
have ordered the force to ensure "internal security and stability" for
the Olympics as well as tackle terrorist threats.

The PAP has led the crackdown on riots in Lhasa and protests in other
parts of China with large Tibetan populations.

Commanders called the security tasks highly "political and sensitive",
and stressed that Chinese President Hu Jintao had made security concerns
a top priority for a successful Olympics.

The paper last week issued a "political mobilisation order" to PAP
troops telling them to prepare for an arduous time ensuring order and
control before and during the games.

Journalists have been prevented from entering areas where unrest has
taken place - except for a handful allowed on to strictly limited
state-organised tours - despite a special law allowing them to travel
outside Beijing without notifying the authorities in the run up to the

But Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee,
said this morning he had pressed Beijing to fully implement the new

Speaking after a meeting with the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, Rogge
said: "We know the implementation of this [media] law is not perfect,
there are shortcomings. I have asked the authorities to implement the
media law in full ... and I have insisted this must be done as soon as

Separate restrictions still apply to reporting in Tibet.
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