Sat, Jan 12, 2019 - Page 1 News List

China pledges easier foreign tourist access to Tibet

Reuters, BEIJING

A Chinese Communist Party flag flies in Cizhong Village, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, China, on Dec. 24.

Photo: Reuters

The Chinese government in Tibet yesterday said it would boost numbers and cut waiting times for foreign tourists visiting the highly restricted region amid renewed pressure from the US for greater access for officials and journalists.

US President Donald Trump last month signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which seeks to press China to open the region by denying US entry for officials deemed responsible for restricting access to Tibet.

Beijing denounced the law as interference in China’s internal affairs, risking “serious harm” to ties with Washington.

The Tibetan government is to shorten the time required for foreign tourists to gain access to the region by half and boost numbers by 50 percent, Tibet Autonomous Region Chairman Qizhala (齊扎拉) said in an annual work report published by the official Tibet Daily.

Non-Chinese visitors must apply for a special permit to travel to Tibet, which is usually granted for tourists provided they travel with approved tour companies, but rarely for journalists and diplomats.

Qizhala also pledged that the government would “take a clear-cut stance in the fight against the Dalai clique,” a reference to exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

“We must improve the monastery management and service mechanisms to defend the bottom line of Tibetan Buddhism not being manipulated by foreign forces,” he said, adding that management of religious activities must prevent another “upsurge” of religion.

Rights groups and overseas activists have said that ethnic Tibetans face widespread restrictions under Chinese rule and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in June last year said that conditions were “fast deteriorating.”

This year marks the 60th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. Supporters of Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama have in the past staged protests to mark the anniversary, angering China.

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