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

Tibet reverses plan to reopen to tourism, citing safety concerns for Mount Everest torch relay

April 11, 2008

2008-04-10

BEIJING (AP) - Tibetan authorities, jittery about possible protests
marring the Mount Everest leg of the Olympic torch relay, have abruptly
reversed a

decision to reopen the region to foreign tourists in May.

Tour operators said Thursday they had received verbal notices this week
from the Tibetan Tourism Bureau telling them to stop arranging trips for

foreigners. They said the bureau cited the need to secure safe passage
for the torch relay to the summit of Everest, as well as continuing safety

concerns in Lhasa.

Tourism authorities had announced last week that foreign tour groups
would be allowed into Tibet on May 1, the start of a three-day national

holiday. Permits needed for foreigners to visit the Himalayan region
have not been issued since deadly anti-government riots broke out in the
capital

of Lhasa in mid-March.

«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,» said an employee at the Tibet China Youth Travel Service in
Lhasa, who

identified himself by his surname Dong.

Dong said the government's decision will hurt Tibet's expanding tourism
industry, which accounts for a major portion of the local economy. Last
May,

his company arranged trips for 3,000 to 4,000 foreign tourists.

«This decision will affect our business, even the Chinese tourism
market, a lot,» he said.

The reversal comes in the wake of major demonstrations this week in San
Francisco, London and Paris, all stops on the Olympic torch relay's

grandiose trek around the world. Thousands of raucous protesters angry
at China's human rights record, its harsh rule in Tibet and its friendly
ties

with Sudan scuffled with police and attempted to block the torch's passage.

A man who answered the phone at the Tibetan Tourism Bureau confirmed
that changes have been made to the original decision to reopen Tibet on

May 1. He refused to give his name because he was not authorized to
speak to the media.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday that the Tibetan
government is making efforts to «restore the situation and to bring back
the

law and order.» Yu added that «special measures are taken for special
circumstances.

The torch relay, the longest in Olympic history, was aimed at showcasing
China's rising economic and political power. Instead, protesters along its

route have used the spectacle to criticize Chinese leaders for their
March crackdown on massive anti-government demonstrations in Tibet and

surrounding provinces. Those protests have been the biggest challenge to
Chinese rule in nearly two decades.

Rallies have also been held elsewhere to protest the crackdown. On
Thursday, thousands of Tibetans carried 154 shrouded effigies in India's
capital,

New Delhi, representing compatriots they believed were killed in the
crackdown on anti-China protests in Tibet. Chinese authorities say 22
people

died in the riots.

In a bid to prevent possible disruptions, China earlier this year banned
mountaineering groups from getting permits to climb its side of Everest

between March and June. It also persuaded Nepal to enact a similar ban
on the other side of the mountain.

The torch is scheduled to return to mainland China at the beginning of
May and continue through dozens of Chinese cities, including Lhasa, in mid

June. A side relay will take a second torch up Mount Everest in early May.

Tibet's governor Champa Phuntsok said earlier this week he had «no
doubt» that Tibetan independence activists would seek to «create trouble»

during the Tibet leg of the Olympic relay. China has repeated blamed the
Dalai Lama and his supporters for fomenting the unrest, saying they want

to publicize Tibet's cause and undermine the Olympics.

On Thursday, the exiled Tibetan leader said he supports China's hosting
of the Summer Games, but insisted nobody had the right to tell protesters

demanding freedom for Tibet «to shut up.

«We are not anti-Chinese. Right from the beginning, we supported the
Olympic Games,» the Dalai Lama said during a stopover in Tokyo on his
way to

the U.S.

However, he said that demonstrators have the right to their opinions, as
long as it is nonviolent

«Nobody has the right to tell them to shut up. One of the problems in
Tibet is that there is no freedom of speech,» he said.

The United States, along with other Western nations, has urged Chinese
leaders to begin a dialogue with the Tibetan leader in hopes of resolving

tensions.

China's long-standing position has been that it would engage in dialogue
only if the Dalai Lama gave up what it calls aspirations for Tibetan

independence, stopped «splittist activities,» and halted actions to
undermine the Beijing Olympics. The Dalai Lama denies pursuing any of
those aims.
On Thursday, the European Parliament urged European Union governments to
consider a boycott of the Olympic opening ceremony if China does not

resume talks with the Dalai Lama. Several world leaders, including
Britain's Gordon Brown and Germany's Angela Merkel, have already said
they will

not attend.

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in Beijing for talks on trade,
told Premier Wen Jiabao Thursday that he hopes China can resolve its
«significant

human rights problems» in Tibet but rejected the idea of boycotting the
Beijing Olympics as «ineffective.

Rudd was the second visiting world leader this week to urge China to
engage critics and explore the underlying causes for the anti-government

rioting that erupted last month across Tibetan-inhabited regions of
western China.

«The position of the Australian government is that there are significant
human rights problems in Tibet which require a solution» through nonviolent

approaches and dialogue, said Rudd, who has not said whether or not he
planned to attend the opening ceremony.
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