April 10, 2008 / 8:40 AM / 10 years ago

China won't re-open Tibet till after Olympics -group

BEIJING, April 10 (Reuters) - China will not re-open the restive mountain region of Tibet to foreigners until after the August Olympics, scrapping plans to try to let tourists back in by early May, a U.S.-based Tibetan rights group asserted.

The National Tourism Administration as well as the Tibet government and tourism authority had no immediate comment.

A decision to delay the reopening might indicate that China’s Communist government was still worried that Tibet was unstable and would remain so for months after a series of protests and a riot in Lhasa on March 14 rocked the region and neighbouring areas.

Normally, travel to Tibet is restricted. Foreigners must obtain special permits and travel in tour groups to visit, and foreign reporters living in China are not allowed into the Himalayan region without special permission.

After the outburst of violence in Lhasa, the government stopped issuing permits, citing safety concerns. State media said Tibet would be re-opened to foreign travellers from May 1.

“But according to reliable reports it seems that re-opening may now not be until after the Olympics,” the International Campaign for Tibet said in a statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region was trying its best to restore normalcy and said the current restrictions “were a special arrangement for a special period”.

The Tibetan anti-Beijing protests and Chinese crackdown have fuelled vigorous demonstrations along the Olympic torch relay route through London, Paris and San Francisco. China will attempt to take the flame to the top of Mt. Everest in May and also plans to bring it through other parts of Tibet in June.

In 2006, tourism netted the Tibet Autonomous Region $17.5 million, according to Chinese media. (Writing by John Ruwitch, additional reporting by Guo Shipeng and Sally Huang; Editing by Ken Wills and Sanjeev Miglani)

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