China shuts off Tibet for 50th anniversary of uprising

March 10th, 2009 - 12:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, March 10 (DPA) Tibetan areas of China were sealed off to foreigners Tuesday amid tension surrounding the anniversaries of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule and violent protests last year.
Foreign journalists and tourists were barred from almost all Tibetan areas of provinces adjoining the Tibet Autonomous Region, as the Communist party tightened border security and stepped up a propaganda drive.

The road to the Rongwo monastery in Qinghai province, which several foreign journalists visited in recent weeks, was blocked and large military convoys were travelling on nearby roads, said one journalist who returned to Beijing Monday.

Police also prevented journalists from staying in several other previously open Tibetan towns in the neighbouring province of Sichuan.

The Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents Club of China said reporters from at least six news organisations were detained, turned back or had material confiscated in the past week.

“This contravenes regulations made permanent by the foreign ministry in October 2008 that foreign reporters can travel freely without seeking prior permission everywhere outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region,” the club said in statement.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said authorities had also closed at least one Tibetan-language website, arrested a Tibetan editor and suspended some text-messaging services as part of a “systematic violation of press freedom and free expression in Tibet”.

“We urge the Chinese authorities to allow foreign journalists to visit Tibet and the Tibetan regions freely,” the group said.

“We also call on them to grant the Tibet-based media more editorial freedom and to stop jamming international radio stations broadcasting in the Tibetan language,” it said.

The autonomous region has never been open to foreign journalists while tourists visiting it need a special permit in addition to a Chinese visa, and must register with a travel agency.

The government has taken several groups of foreign journalists on stage-managed visits to the region since last year’s protests.

One Beijing-based tour operator said authorities had cancelled permits already issued for foreign tour groups in late February and early March.

In a statement to mark the 50th anniversary of the uprising Tuesday, the exiled Dalai Lama accused China of a “brutal crackdown” since March 2008.

He said the Communist party was “publishing distorted propaganda about Tibet and its people”.

“Consequently, there are, among the Chinese populace, not many who have a true understanding about Tibet,” the Dalai Lama said.

“It is, in fact, very difficult for them to find the truth,” he said.

Chinese state media Monday quoted police as saying they had increased security along the Himalayan border between Tibet and neighbouring countries ahead of “expected sabotage activities” by supporters of the Dalai Lama.

“We must reinforce the solid Great Wall for combating separatism and safeguarding national unity, so as to promote a long-term stability in the region,” President Hu Jintao said.

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