02/13/2009, 00.00
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Beijing bans foreigners from travelling to Tibetan-inhabited areas

Wide areas are off-limits to tourists as the anniversaries of the 1959 and 2008 protests approach. Journalists expelled without warning from Tibet. The authorities are getting ready to crush any protests and do not want any witnesses.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese authorities have again declared wide areas of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai, home to large ethnic Tibetan communities, off-limits to visitors. The ban is expected to remain in place until late March to prevent observers and journalists from being present on the anniversaries of the 1959 revolt (10 March) and 2008 protests (14 March), both crushed in blood.

Foreigners are banned from travelling to Gannan Prefecture in Gansu province, home to a major Tibetan monastery.

In Sichuan almost the entire prefecture of Ganzi is off-limits; this, just two weeks after it was re-opened.

In 2008 protests that broke out in Tibet had in fact spilled over into other provinces.

Wide areas of Tibet are closed off to tourists. Journalists who want to visit Tibet must get a special permit and many have been expelled without warning in the last few days.

On Thursday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu described the current situation in Tibet as “stable”. She added however that restrictions are required to “safeguard stability” in the region.

Wary of potential unrest, China last month launched a security sweep in Tibet, with at least 81 people arrested during raids on hotels, hostels, bars and other tourist venues.

According to exiled Tibetan groups, the current status of at least 1,200 Tibetans arrested in March-April 2008 remains unknown. They have however the names of Tibetans tortured or sentenced to life in prison or years in jail for crimes of opinion, not to mention at least 120 who died during the protests.

(Pictured: Norzin Wangmo, 30, sentenced according to the Free Tibet group to five years of prison for making phone calls and sending e-mail messages outside Tibet describing the internal situation in the region.)

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