(TibetanReview.net, Feb21’19) – Although regularly denying it officially, China has again closed Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) for foreign visitors who are not mainland Chinese, ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan national uprising day which falls on Mar 10.
The duration and beginning of the closure have varied from year to year since the clampdown began in 2008 and have included the period when Tibetans celebrate Losar, their traditional New Year. The 2008 lockdown, which lasted a little more than a year, followed a popular upheaval which began in Tibet’s capital Lhasa on Mar 10 and rapidly spread to almost the entire Tibetan Plateau ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Tibet tour operators have announced that this year’s closure began on Jan 30, and will continue till Apr 1. Last year it was from Feb 10 to Apr 1.
Even normally, non-mainland Chinese foreign visitors require a special permit to travel to Tibet in addition to their Chinese visa and they can travel only in sanctioned tour groups.
The whole purpose is to ensure easy control and monitoring in times of potential or actual disturbances, including by restricting access to places and people not approved by the authorities.
This year is particularly sensitive to China as it not only marks the 60th Tibetan national uprising day, which led to Tibet’s temporal and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fleeing his homeland but also the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which coincided with China’s invasion of Tibet.
China has announced that it will observe this year as the 60th anniversary of its “Democratic Reforms” in Tibet, which it claimed to have initiated after its brutal suppression of the Tibetan uprising which led to massacres and large-scale internment for decades of people opposing the occupation rule.
At the end of last year, the US Congress passed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, calling for same free access to Tibet for American officials, journalists and tourists as that enjoyed by their Chinese counterparts travelling to the US.