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Free visits announced for winter travellers to Tibet, but tight scrutiny for exile Tibetan visitors

Snow scenery of Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. (Photo courtesy: China Daily)
Snow scenery of Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. (Photo courtesy: China Daily)

(TibetanReview.net, Feb27, 2018) – China has announced preferential policies for travellers to the Tibet Autonomous Region from Feb 1 to Apr 30, 2018 in order to promote winter tourism there, reported the prnewswire.com news agency Feb 23. However, these preferential policies dot not seem to apply to overseas Tibetans seeking to visit their family and relatives back home.

The report has, in fact, cautioned that Tibet was usually not open to international travelers in February and March, and during the Tibetan New Year. These have always been sensitive months to the Chinese government as the anniversaries, among others things, of the 1959 Tibetan national uprising and the 2008 Tibet uprising protests fall in this period.

The report, based on an announcement by the Great Tibet Tour agency, has said that for the other visitors, 115 Tibetan attractions were totally free of charge, including the Potala, the winter palace of Tibet’s spiritual head and erstwhile temporal ruler, the Dalai Lama.

It said the top attractions in all of the popular destinations, such as Lhasa, Shannan, Nyingchi, Shigatse, Chamdo, and Ngari regions, were included in this policy. These were stated to include the Jokhang Temple, Yamdrok Lake, and Mount Everest National Nature Reserve, which were all declared completely free to visit.

The policies were stated to help save the winter visitors hundreds of dollars.

Meanwhile, three exile Tibetans – two men holding South Korean passports and one man holding US passport – had been detained and subjected to harsh questioning for eight hours at Chengdu airport and then sent back even though they held valid visas, reported the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Feb 23. The trio had hoped to visit their family members in Sichuan Province.

During questioning Chinese police were stated to have searched their web chats and notebooks and made copies of their telephone contacts.

Tibetans with foreign passports were stated to be required to go through a strict screening process and meet conditions required only of Tibetans when applying for visas at Chinese embassies overseas.

“But even then, many of them encounter various problems on the way, such as being stopped and searched at the airport or having their visas revoked when they arrive,” the report quoted a source as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Tibetans living under Chinese rule also remain blocked from travelling abroad, especially to India for fear that they may attend religious teachings given by their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

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