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China extends Tibet travel ban to remote valley

 Armed Chinese paramilitary police stand guard at a street corner leading to the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, China on Wednesday March 1...
 Armed Chinese paramilitary police stand guard at a street corner leading to the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, China on Wednesday March 1...

China Tibet

Armed Chinese paramilitary police stand guard at a street corner leading to the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, China on Wednesday March 1...

China Tibet

Armed Chinese paramilitary police stand guard at a street corner leading to the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, China on Wednesday March 1...

A famous scenic valley in a Tibetan part of western China has been declared off-limits to foreigners, officials said Wednesday, in a further tightening of security to prevent protests against Chinese rule during a volatile anniversary period.
Prohibiting travel to the Jiuzhaigou valley widens the ban on foreigners traveling to Tibetan areas this month, 50 years since a failed Tibetan uprising and a year since violent demonstrations erupted across a quarter of China's territory. 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.
In the Tibetan regional capital of Lhasa, paramilitary police in riot gear and with automatic rifles stood at the entrances to alleys leading to the Jokhang temple, one of the holiest shrines in Tibetan Buddhism and a frequent focal point for protests. "There seem to be more paramilitary police, but overall I still feel safe," said tour guide Tudan Danzeng.
In response to the Obama administration expressing concern over human rights violations in Tibet, the Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized the United States for interfering in domestic affairs. "The U.S. side has confused the facts and wrongly accused China for no reason with its gross interference in Chinese internal affairs and has hurt the Chinese people's feelings," ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.
China's determined show of force apparently squelched any large-scale protests in the region Tuesday, the start of the anniversary period.
The 1959 revolt ended with the Dalai Lama's flight into exile and with Beijing bringing Tibet under its direct control. Peaceful protests marking the event last year spiraled out of control, resulting in a day of ethnic rioting in Lhasa last March 14 and widespread, sporadic demonstrations elsewhere in Tibet and three surrounding provinces.
As part of the security preparations this year, authorities began barring foreigners from Tibet and Tibetan communities in Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu last month.
An emergency meeting of senior officials in Sichuan province on Monday decided to extend the ban to include Jiuzhaigou, a high-altitude valley of lakes and waterfalls, and nearby Huanglong where an airport is located, said an official at the provincial tourism administration office who gave only his surname, Xu.
Jiuzhaigou is 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.
"The decision was made at an emergency meeting," Xu said.
In addition to foreigners, the ban covers people from Hong Kong and Taiwan, tourism administration officials and travel agents said. Officials from the Sichuan Tourism Administration and the Air China ticketing office in the provincial capital of Chengdu both said they had received notice, as did travel agents in Hong Kong.
No reason was contained in the order. Xu cited road safety as a concern, but could not explain why domestic tourists were still allowed to travel to Jiuzhaigou.
In neighboring Gansu province, both Chinese and foreign tourists were prohibited from going to Luqu county, an official and local residents said. The destination is popular for horse trekking trips and tours of the Langmusi Tibetan monastery. A man surnamed He with the Luqu county tourism bureau said the area would reopen in June or July. He declined to give his full name.
An employee with the Dacang Langmu Hotel described a heavy paramilitary police presence in the area and said authorities were making frequent random checks of people's identification. He wouldn't give his name for fear of reprisal.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration was concerned about the situation in Tibet.
"The United States respects the territorial integrity of China and considers Tibet to be part of China. At the same time, we're concerned about the human rights situation in Tibet," Gibbs told reporters Tuesday.


Updated : 2021-04-13 05:31 GMT+08:00