02/23/2009, 00.00
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Chinese authorities blocking internet for celebration of Tibetan New Year

Already closed to foreign visitors, the region is increasingly isolated from the world. Beijing is massing troops in the zone, ready to repress any protest.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In view of the Tibetan New Year (Losar), which falls on February 25, residents of the region are denouncing that the internet has been completely blocked, isolating them from the world. In recent days, Beijing has increased the massive presence of police and army personnel in Tibet and in the nearby areas of Tibetan ethnicity, in Gansu, Sichuan, and elsewhere. For some time, these areas have been off-limits to foreign tourists.

Losar is the biggest holiday for Tibetans, but this year many of them have decided not to celebrate it, in order to protest the harsh repression by the Chinese army in March of 2008, which still continues. 2009 also marks the 50th anniversary of the anti-Chinese revolt on March 10, 1959, which was violently repressed, and the resulting flight of the Dalai Lama into exile.

The Chinese authorities have responded to the Losar boycott with arrests and intimidation. The Chinese army has camped out on the outskirts of Kangding (Sichuan), an area heavily populated by Tibetans, and is patrolling the streets of the city.

In Lithang, county of Kardze, 24 Tibetans were arrested last week after taking to the streets to chant support for the Dalai Lama and promote the new year "boycott." In response, the police, in riot gear, set up checkpoints in Yajiang, a city on the way to Lithang.

The tight police control and the ban on foreigners have also seriously affected the tourism industry, important for many areas of the region. The poor Kangding (Dardo for the Tibetans) was a routine tourist destination. But the news of the protests and repression has frightened tourists, creating further problems for the local economy.

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