Tibet Closes to Travelers For 10 Days in October

No one may enter Tibet during top-level Party meetings scheduled next month in Beijing.

The Potala palace in Lhasa is shown in a file photo.

Chinese authorities have issued orders banning travel to Tibet from outside the politically sensitive region from Oct. 18 to 28 while top-level government meetings are held in Beijing and Lhasa, sources say.

The ban was announced by telephone about ten days ago, a Tibetan employee in a travel agency in Xining, capital of northwestern China's Qinghai province, told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.

“During this period, it is not just foreigners but also Tibetans living in the Amdo region of Qinghai who are not allowed to travel in the Tibet Autonomous Region,” the employee said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Because October is a popular month for tourists, the travel ban will deal a severe blow to the economy of the TAR, he said.

The ban will remain in place for the duration of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress held in Beijing next month, Agence France Presse said in a Sept. 21 report.

“During the sensitive, high-level talks, Tibet will close its borders to foreigners, while visitors traveling the country during that period will likewise be required to leave by Oct. 17,” AFP said in its report.

Though not officially announced by the Tibet Tourism Bureau, notice of the travel ban was sent to “several local travel agencies” earlier this month, AFP said.

Also speaking to RFA, a source who recently traveled in Tibet confirmed the region will be closed to outside visitors from Oct. 18 to 28, adding that high-level government meetings are also scheduled to be held in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa during the period of the ban.

Travel blocked also in March


China now also blocks travel to Lhasa by foreign visitors and Tibetans living in western Chinese provinces each March, a month of politically sensitive anniversaries.

On March 10, 1959, Tibetans in Lhasa rose up in protest of Beijing’s tightening political and military control of the formerly self-governing Tibetan region, sparking a rebellion in which thousands were killed.

And in March 2008, a riot in Lhasa followed the suppression by Chinese police of four days of peaceful Tibetan protests and led to the destruction of Han Chinese shops in the city and deadly attacks on Han Chinese residents.

The riot then sparked a wave of mostly peaceful protests against Chinese rule that spread across Tibet and into Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces.

Hundreds of Tibetans were detained, beaten, or shot as Chinese security forces quelled the protests, sources said in earlier reports.

Reported and translated by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.