In what seems to be a reoccurring story over the past two years, China has once again shut down the borders of Tibet to foreign visitors ahead of the October 1st celebration of 60 years of Communist rule. According to this story from the AP, the travel ban began on Tuesday and will last through the 8th of October, and it doesn’t effect travelers already in the country.
The article says that further security measures have also been taken across all of China, but Tibet in particular to ensure that violent protests don’t take place. The government is planning a major parade, fireworks display, and presidential address in Beijing on the 1st, and they want be sure that everything goes off without a hitch. One of the more volatile hotspots over the past few years has been Tibet, and they certainly don’t want to have the Himalayan country do anything to embarrass China on the anniversary of the Communist take over.
Tibet has had been shut off to the world on several occasions since 2008, most notably in the spring of that year when protests turned violent resulting in clashes with the Chinese military, who claim 22 Tibetans died in the altercations. Sources from within that country say that that number is much higher, possibly in the hundreds. Following those clashes, Tibet was closed for month, preventing trekkers and climbers from accessing the Himalaya that year. The same thing happened earlier this year, as Beijing braced for another round of protests on the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama going into exile. In both of these instances, foreign media was also expelled, which doesn’t seem to be the case this time.
Fortunately, the window for closing Tibet is fairly small, and will only hinder a few travelers heading to the region. Most of the climbers are already in country and on their mountains, so it’s not preventing access as it has in the past. Still, isn’t it about time that someone calls out the Chinese government for these actions? Closing up shop every time they think there may be a problem isn’t the way any government should act, but then again, look who we’re talking about here.
Sadly, the closing of the borders will mostly have an impact on the Tibetans who earn a living through the tourism trade, which is an important one for that country.
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