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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 fears Everest of Tibetan protests ahead of Olympics

March 13, 2008

Kathmandu, March 11 (IANS) Thousands of mountaineers, porters and
guides have been left in the lurch with China announcing that it was
curbing further expeditions to the highest mountain in the world, Mt
Everest, till May, when traditionally, most Everest summits take
place. The Mountaineering Association of Tibet Autonomous Region of
the People's Republic of China has issued a circular to other
mountaineering associations, including the Nepal Mountaineering
Association in Kathmandu, asking them to postpone all Everest
expeditions till May 10.

The Chinese mountaineering authority apparently took the decision
prompted by thoughts of safety and environment protection.

"Concern of heavy climbing activities, crowded climbing routes and
increasing environmental pressures will cause potential safety
concerns in Qomolungma (the Chinese name for Mt Everest) areas in this
spring season," the circular says.

"We are not able to accept your expedition, so please postpone your
climbing project to after May 10. For this, please accept our deep
regret," the circular added.

However, mountaineering experts contend that China's real fear is over
Tibet, and not environmental damage to the Everest region.

With the world's eyes on China for the upcoming Olympic Games, Beijing
is afraid that Tibet activists might challenge the Olympic Torch run
to the base of the world's highest peak and unfurl a 'Free Tibet'
banner.

Last year, a group of Americans staged such a protest at the Everest base camp.

A group of Tibetan refugees in India Monday began a march towards
Tibet from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, where their exiled leader
the Dalai Lama resides. But the police halted the march, asking the
activists not to proceed with the march.

Monday, the day the Chinese mountaineering authorities sent the
circular, Tibetan refugees in Nepal staged an unprecedented show of
defiance.

To mark the 49th uprising against China's invasion of the former
Buddhist kingdom, nearly 200 Tibetans marched towards the Chinese
embassy in Kathmandu and painted "Free Tibet" graffiti on its tightly
guarded walls.

Over 150 activists were arrested, but released later in the evening.

Besides Mt Everest, China has also blocked expeditions to Mt Cho Oyu,
about 20 km west of the 8,848-metre peak. Mt Cho Oyu is the sixth
highest peak in the world at 8,201 metres.

Not content with blocking the northern route to Mt Everest via Tibet,
China last month sent a delegation to Nepal to try and persuade the
Girija Prasad Koirala government into imposing a similar block.

However, though the Koirala government has acknowledged Beijing's
One-China policy, that considers Tibet to be an integral and
inalienable part of the communist republic, it is yet to make any
commitment on blocking expeditions to the world's most charismatic
peak.

Such a move ahead of the crucial April 10 election in Nepal would
create a furore and grim opposition from the Sherpa community and
mountaineering agencies, whose bread and butter come from the
expeditions to the peak.
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