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Tibet to Reopen to Foreign Tourists on April 5

March 31, 2009

TIME Magazine
March 30, 2009

BEIJING -- Tibet will reopen to foreign tourists
on April 5, Chinese state media reported, after
several sensitive anniversaries passed without any apparent disturbances.

The remote Himalayan region was closed to
foreigners earlier this year as authorities
stepped up security, wary of potential unrest.
Ethnically Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Gansu and
Sichuan provinces of western China were also
ordered off-limits to foreigners in February.
(See pictures from the Dalai Lama's 60 years of leading Tibet.)

Tibet would resume receiving foreign tourists as
early as next week, Bachug, head of the Tibetan
regional government's tourism administration, was
quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency in a report late Sunday.

Visits from foreign tourists were suspended "for
the sake of travelers' safety," said Bachug, who
like many Tibetans uses only one name. "Tibet is harmonious and safe now."

China requires foreigners to obtain special
permission to visit Tibet and routinely bars them
from all Tibetan areas of the country during
sensitive periods to keep news of unrest from leaking out.

In recent weeks, security forces placed the
Himalayan region under de facto martial law, with
armored vehicles, sandbagged sentry posts and
paramilitary patrols giving it the appearance of an armed camp.

March 28 marked the date when Beijing ended a
1959 Tibetan uprising, sending the Dalai Lama
over the Himalayas into exile and placing Tibet
under its direct rule for the first time and
demolishing the region's traditional Buddhist-based social system.

Beijing sought to commemorate the imposition of
direct rule this year with a newly manufactured
holiday crowned "Serf Liberation Day," held on Saturday.

A peaceful commemoration of the 1959 uprising
last year by monks in Lhasa, Tibet's regional
capital, erupted into anti-Chinese rioting four
days later and spread to surrounding provinces --
leading to the most sustained and violent
demonstrations by Tibetans in decades.

Tibetan exile groups had called on Tibetans to
mark the anniversary of the protests by
boycotting traditional celebrations of the
Tibetan new year that fell earlier in March this year.

The ban on outside observers and China's
stranglehold on information about Tibet made it
impossible to know whether the boycott had been widely observed.
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