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Famous tourist spot in Ngaba closed for foreigners in further tightening of controls

(TibetanReview.net, Mar 14, 2009) — Overseas journalists have not been kept away from Tibetan-inhabited areas in Sichuan Province and overseas touring groups have never been banned from the famous scenic spot there of Jiuzhaigou, the official China Daily online Mar 11 cited Hou Xiongfei, deputy chief of Sichuan Provincial Publicity Department as saying. And yet, the Examiner.com (US) Mar 11 cited officials as saying that day that the famous scenic valley in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Prefecture had been declared off-limits to foreigners.

Paramilitary police forces, a constant presence in Tibet and surrounding provinces since last year’s protests, have poured into the area in larger numbers, ringing it with checkpoints, the report said. It said that an emergency meeting of senior officials in Sichuan province on Mar 9 decided to extend the ban to include Jiuzhaigou, a high-altitude valley of lakes and waterfalls, and nearby Huanglong where an airport is located, citing an official at the provincial tourism administration office with the surname Xu.

The decision represented higher level of tightening of controls than even after last year’s Tibetan uprising protests. The report noted that Jiuzhaigou was far from where protests occurred last year and while much of the surrounding region has been closed to foreigners since then, it had remained open.

At further proof that the authorities implement policies without declaring them and then claim that such policies did not exist, the report cited officials from the Sichuan Tourism Administration and the Air China ticketing office in the provincial capital of Chengdu both as saying they had received notice, as did travel agents in Hong Kong. The notice was stated to contain no reason for the order. Domestic, meaning Chinese, tourists were still being allowed to travel to Jiuzhaigou.

The restrictions were far more severe in neighbouring Luqu (Tibetan: Luchu) County of Gansu Province, where both Chinese and foreign tourists were prohibited from going, the report cited an official and local residents as saying.

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