China has closed Tibet to foreign tourists ahead of next month’s highly sensitive 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, tour agencies and other industry people said on Tuesday.
The ban comes amid deep tensions in the Himalayan region, with a reported increase in security forces and a call by the Dalai Lama for a boycott of Tibetan New Year celebrations on Wednesday, in protest against Chinese rule.
“Authorities asked tour agents to stop organising foreigners coming to Tibet for tour trips until April 1,” an employee of a government-run travel agency in Lhasa said. The employee could not be named for fear of reprisals.
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He said the city’s tourism bureau had decided this at a meeting in mid-February, although it was unclear when exactly the orders were given.
A hotel in the Tibetan capital and three travel agencies in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu that normally organise trips into Tibet also confirmed the ban on foreigners.
“Foreigners cannot go there in March because we have stopped giving out permits,” an employee at the Chengdu Overseas Tourism Company, another government-run travel agency, said.