Thinking of visiting Tibet anytime soon? Keep your eyes peeled on the current situation. According to the Daily Mail, all travel to Tibet in March is banned by the Chinese government, and this could possibly extend into April (and potentially could last up to three months). This ban coincides with the third anniversary of anti-government protests that turned violent in March of 2008, when riots broke out in the capital of Lhasa, resulting in 22 deaths.
Although the tragic events in 2008 left a mark on the Tibetan community, they unfortunately have not ceased. The Guardian (in Prince Edward Island, not the UK paper), reported that a Tibetan monk named Phuntsog in the western China province of Sichuan set himself on fire in Aba to protest against the government on March 16th of this year. Phuntsog was reportedly beaten and kicked by police after they extinguished the fire, which prompted hundreds of other monks to take up the protest.
Image: Desmond Kavanagh / Flickr
Efforts to confirm the report were met with resistance. Someone from the Public Security Bureau in Aba who answered the phone claimed he knew nothing and hung up. A call to the media office of the Communist Party in Aba was answered, and the paper was told that, “The main office of the communist party in Aba county is on top of this issue.” Calls to the main office went unanswered.
Travel agencies in China have been ordered by the government to not allow foreign tourists into Tibet. For one year after the initial protests in 2008, tourists were banned from entering Tibet and since then, a travel ban around the anniversary of March 14 each year is enforced, although never for this long.