Beijing closes Tibet to foreigners over 60th anniversary of the 1959 uprising

Tourists in Tibet
Tourists in Tibet
Tourists in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Feb 9. Credit, AP.
26th February 2019

Beijing closes Tibet to foreigners for anniversary of 1959 uprising.

China is stopping foreign travelers from visiting Tibet for two months around the 60th anniversary of the 1959 uprising when Tibetans challenged Chinese occupation of the country, the Associated Press and Tibet Watch have reported.

The ban started on 30 January and will bar foreign tourists from entering the country until 1 April, Tibet Watch and travel agencies operating in Tibet have said.

Travel agencies including Tibet Vista, the Youth International Travel Service and Go to Tibet, based in Chengdu the main launch point for trips to Tibet, have all confirmed the existence of the ban.

10 March 1959 saw thousands of Tibetans protest against Chinese occupation of the country. The unrest was suppressed by the Chinese government and tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed in the backlash that followed, with the exact number of casualties still unknown.

Many Tibetans mark the date every year, and there has been violence between protesters and Chinese authorities during past anniversaries, perhaps most famously in the 2008 Tibetan unrest.

Beijing is expected to boost security in the country during the period. Monitoring groups including Tibet Watch say it’s part of a Chinese strategy to conceal the extent of repression in the country.

Tibet is an increasingly popular tourist destination despite travel bans on key Tibetan dates, high levels of security and reports of human rights violations there.

In 2018 foreign tourists made more than 30 million trips to Tibet, a 31.5% increase on the year before according to the Xinhua News Agency, an official Chinese news source.

Chinese citizens can travel to Tibet without extra permits, but foreigners have to obtain a special visa to visit on top of the visa which grants them access to China.

On 19 December President Trump signed the reciprocal access act. The move attempts to put pressure on Beijing to improve access to Tibet for US tourists and journalists.

Tibet Watch said the travel ban shows China is taking little notice of the new US legislation.