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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China to tighten Everest access for Olympic torch relay

October 6, 2007

KATHMANDU (AFP) — China has put in place tougher rules on access to the
Tibetan side of Mount Everest next year as part of preparations to take
the Olympic torch to the summit of the world's highest mountain.

The new regulations, which include stricter background checks on foreign
climbers, follow threats by Tibetan independence activists to step up
protests against China's presence in the Himalayan region during the
2008 Summer Games.

Chinese officials "will not limit expeditions, but they will strictly
vet the expedition teams," the head of the Nepal Mountaineering
Association, Ang Tsering Sherpa, told AFP.

He said China plans limit the number of different nationalities
represented in each climbing team, demand climbers' documents
two-and-a-half months before the trip and prohibit substitutions or
last-minute additions to an expedition.

"The main purpose is to run the Olympic expedition smoothly without
problems. That is their main concern," said Sherpa, who was informed of
the new rules during a recent meeting with Chinese representatives on
planning for the 2008 Everest climbing season.

He said the restrictions did not apply to the Nepali side of the mountain.

The organisers of the Beijing Olympics plan to bring the Olympic torch
to the top of the 8,848-metre (29,198-foot) peak as part of a relay that
will also take in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

The torch summit bid by a team of hardened Chinese climbers is expected
to take place in early May, slightly earlier than the traditional window
when lines of mountaineers often queue for access to the summit, Sherpa
said.

China asserts Tibet, a vast Himalayan plateau which it has ruled since
sending troops in to "liberate" the region in 1951, is an "inseparable
part" of its territory.

Beijing has been targeted by "Free Tibet" protests involving foreign
mountaineers over the past year.

In April, five Americans were expelled from China after staging an
illegal "Free Tibet" protest at Everest base camp. The demonstration
prompted Beijing to lodge a formal protest with Washington.

In 2006, China also came in for international criticism after foreign
climbers witnessed, filmed and photographed the shooting of Tibetan
refugees by Chinese border guards who killed a Buddhist nun.

Tibetan independence campaigners say the new Everest regulations are
clearly aimed at them.

"In taking the torch to the summit, China wants to convey a message of
ownership over this most potent symbol of Tibetan land," said Kate
Saunders, spokeswoman for the Washington-based International Campaign
for Tibet.

"The new restrictions represent a more systematic attempt to control and
manage the presence of international expedition teams on Everest at a
crucial time for China," she added.

"Chinese officials are acutely aware that mountaineers carry the latest
communications technologies and are therefore capable of transmitting
information directly to the outside world."

The head of the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet claimed China
was displaying a "paranoia that something will go wrong that will show
they don't legitimately rule" Tibet.

"The closer the time draws for the ascent (of the Olympic torch), the
tighter the Chinese are going to get," said Lhadon Tethong, vowing that
activists "will do whatever we can during the time of the torch relay."

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