China fears Everest of Tibetan protests ahead of OlympicsMarch 11th, 2008 - 6:58 pm ICT by admin
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 11 (IANS) Thousands of mountaineers, porters and guides have been left in the lurch with China announcing that it was curbing further expeditions to the highest mountain in the world, Mt Everest, till May, when traditionally, most Everest summits take place. The Mountaineering Association of Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China has issued a circular to other mountaineering associations, including the Nepal Mountaineering Association in Kathmandu, asking them to postpone all Everest expeditions till May 10.
The Chinese mountaineering authority apparently took the decision prompted by thoughts of safety and environment protection.
“Concern of heavy climbing activities, crowded climbing routes and increasing environmental pressures will cause potential safety concerns in Qomolungma (the Chinese name for Mt Everest) areas in this spring season,” the circular says.
“We are not able to accept your expedition, so please postpone your climbing project to after May 10. For this, please accept our deep regret,” the circular added.
However, mountaineering experts contend that China’s real fear is over Tibet, and not environmental damage to the Everest region.
With the world’s eyes on China for the upcoming Olympic Games, Beijing is afraid that Tibet activists might challenge the Olympic Torch run to the base of the world’s highest peak and unfurl a ‘Free Tibet’ banner.
Last year, a group of Americans staged such a protest at the Everest base camp.
A group of Tibetan refugees in India Monday began a march towards Tibet from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, where their exiled leader the Dalai Lama resides. But the police halted the march, asking the activists not to proceed with the march.
Monday, the day the Chinese mountaineering authorities sent the circular, Tibetan refugees in Nepal staged an unprecedented show of defiance.
To mark the 49th uprising against China’s invasion of the former Buddhist kingdom, nearly 200 Tibetans marched towards the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu and painted “Free Tibet” graffiti on its tightly guarded walls.
Over 150 activists were arrested, but released later in the evening.
Besides Mt Everest, China has also blocked expeditions to Mt Cho Oyu, about 20 km west of the 8,848-metre peak. Mt Cho Oyu is the sixth highest peak in the world at 8,201 metres.
Not content with blocking the northern route to Mt Everest via Tibet, China last month sent a delegation to Nepal to try and persuade the Girija Prasad Koirala government into imposing a similar block.
However, though the Koirala government has acknowledged Beijing’s One-China policy, that considers Tibet to be an integral and inalienable part of the communist republic, it is yet to make any commitment on blocking expeditions to the world’s most charismatic peak.
Such a move ahead of the crucial April 10 election in Nepal would create a furore and grim opposition from the Sherpa community and mountaineering agencies, whose bread and butter come from the expeditions to the peak.
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