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» 06/26/2008
Tibet reopens to foreign tourism, with restrictions for journalists and tourists
More than three months after the repression, foreign tourists are returning to Tibet, but they need special permits to go outside of Lhasa. Severe restrictions are still in place for journalists. Meanwhile, those who protested remain in prison, and talks with the Dalai Lama are not moving forward.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Tibet has been reopened to foreign tourists, after more than three months of complete closure following the social protests that erupted in March, and the following repression.  Restrictions remain in place, for example concerning access for journalists: Liu Jianchao, spokesman for the foreign ministry, told journalists at a June 24 press conference that they will be readmitted "as soon as possible, when the situation in Tibet further returns to normal".

Tourists are able to travel only to Lhasa, but they can visit the rest of the region only in organised groups and with a special permit.  Tourism operators say the restrictions are the typical bureaucratic delays.  There is still an army presence in the city (in the photo).

Meanwhile, the first tourists in many months are starting to arrive in the empty hotels.  Tourism operators and many citizens of the area, mostly of Han ethnicity, describe a completely normal situation and speak only of tourism and the Olympics: they express concern that it will take time for tourism to return to the vigorous levels typical of the summer.  Chinese travellers have been admitted again since the end of April, and those from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan since May.  In 2007, Tibet received 4 million visitors (+60% compared to 2006) for a value of 687 million dollars, more than 14% of the regional economy.

Tranor, the vice director for the Tibetan tourism office, says that there is "total stability", and that even the monasteries where the monks protested are open to tourists.  He emphasises how the torch passed through Lhasa on June 21 without problems.  According to the initial programme, the torch was supposed to be in Tibet for three days, but the passage was reduced to only one day because of fears of protests by pro-Tibet activists, although the official reason for the change was the earthquake in Sichuan.

Last week, Beijing admitted that 116 people are still in prison for protesting, but pro-Tibet groups say that there are many more.  Following international pressure, Beijing began talks with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, to seek a solution.  But the second round of talks has been delayed because of the earthquake, and Beijing does not seem to be in a hurry to resume them.

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See also
06/05/2008 INDIA - TIBET - CHINA
Mass arrests in "March of return"
by Nirmala Carvalho
08/04/2008 INDIA - TIBET - CHINA - NEPAL
Tibetan Olympic torch, sign of freedom and justice
by Nirmala Carvalho
03/12/2008 TIBET - CHINA - INDIA
Tibet, thousands of police break up protest by monks
04/26/2008 CHINA - TIBET - JAPAN
World leaders applaud the announcement of talks between China and the Dalai Lama
03/15/2008 TIBET
The blood of Tibet on the Beijing of the Games
by Bernardo Cervellera
Was China truly ready for the Olympics?
Olympic flop for Beijing’s hospitality industry
Harsh economic winter to follow Olympics
Underground Catholics defy police ban, celebrate mass with their bishop
Beijing, religious freedom according to the Olympics
Lot of criticism and many tears after China’s top champion Liu Xiang pulls out
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Olympics: an entire village arrested for protesting against pollution
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Tibetans involved in non-stop protests but Dalai Lama sends his best wishes for Olympics
"Free Tibet" banner raised in Beijing: four foreign tourists arrested
Pope: May China open itself to the Gospel
The Olympic torch arrives in Beijing, amid tight security and expropriations
Benedict XVI's wishes for Beijing and the Olympics
Pope: best wishes for Beijing Games; remembrance of Paul VI
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