Tibet will be facing yet another cut-off from the outside world beginning mid-February through March, according to reports.
The ban encompasses two important events; the Tibetan New Year from February 22-24 and the Tibetan national uprising day commemorated on March 10. Three years ago, demonstrations on March 10, 2008 had led to the biggest ever pan-Tibet uprisings seen for many decades.
AP, in a report, has quoted travel agents in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet as confirming the ban, Thursday.
The timing of the ban has greater political implications this year as Tibetans in Tibet, as well in exile, have called for a boycott of the new year celebrations in a show of respect and solidarity with Tibetans who have self-immolated in Tibet. In the past 11 months, 16 Tibetans have set their bodies on fire demanding the return of the Dalai Lama from exile and protesting China’s occupation of Tibet.
Recent reports suggested that Chinese government officials in eastern Tibet were “coaxing Tibetans with money and gifts” to celebrate the new year.
The report noted that travel agencies were informed of the ban on foreign travellers from February 20 to March 30 by the government’s tourist administration in Lhasa.
“We haven’t seen a written notice, but it’s the same as previous bans. We were not told about the reasons, but it’s probably because of the Tibetan new year,” AP quoted a travel agent in Lhasa as saying.
“Chinese officials often issue orders regarding sensitive political issues only verbally to allow deniability and maintain the impression of control,” the report said.
Last year, a ban on foreigners was announced during the same period, but government officials cited cold weather and overbooking of hotels as reasons for the ban.
For a second time in 2011, Chinese authorities again banned foreigners as well as Chinese scholars and Tibetans from neighbouring provinces from visiting the ‘TAR’ ahead of politically sensitive celebrations in July.
The restive traditionally Tibetan areas outside the ‘TAR’ where most of the self-immolations have taken place have remained closed to outsiders for months amidst massive security presence.