03/08/2011, 00.00
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From March onwards, foreign tourists barred from Tibet

The official reason: the region is cold and icy and there are few places available in hotels. In fact, this month marks the 60th anniversary of the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet, in reality the beginning of the military occupation since 1951. Fears of riots like those ahead of the Olympics leads to clamp down on presence of foreigners and journalists.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - For the entire month of March and until further notice, a visa to visit Tibet will not be granted to foreign tourists, Zhang Qinli, Party regional secretary, announced on the fringes of the National Peoples’ Congress being held in the capital.

The official reasons being given are care for tourists welfare, given that the weather is currently “ice-cold” in Tibet, and the difficulty of finding accommodation in hotels. In March the Tibetan New Year is celebrated and there are numerous religious activities that attract thousands of Buddhists. Zhang pointed out that out of 1000 the hotel, only 165 are used to accommodateforeign travellers, and therefore "our ability to welcome more tourists is limited".

State news agency Xinhua notes that in the month of March the Himalayan region will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the so-called "peaceful liberation" of Tibet, when the country was occupied by the army of Mao Zedong in 1951.

Many suspect that the ban serves to isolate the region and avoid the presence of foreign journalists especially at a time when riots and demonstrations may occur, as in 2008, just months before the Beijing Olympics. On March 14 of that year, some peaceful demonstrations by monks and Buddhists turned into riots that left 13 Han Chinese dead. The military crackdown led to the deaths of about 200 Tibetans and the arrest of thousands more.

At that time, Zhang - who has headed the party in Tibet for five years - accused the Dalai Lama of being the instigator of the riots and called him "a wolf in sheep's clothes" and a "devil with a human face, but with the heart of the beast. "

Every year in Tibet, there are about 7 million visitors. According to many Tibetans, the tourism industry is contributing to the genocide of Tibetan culture ", while the proceeds - about 700 million euro per year - only enrich the Chinese and not the local population.
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