Following a series of high profile protests over the past few months China has quietly taken steps to close the borders of Tibet. The closure means that foreign travelers are once again banned from entering the Buddhist country just as the busiest travel period of the year is about to begin.
Last Wednesday, a number of tour operators in Beijing announced that the government had instructed them to stop booking foreign travelers into Tibet for the foreseeable future. The move comes just as the popular Saga Dawa festival, which typically brings an influx of visitors, got under way yesterday. That festival is an annual celebration of the birth of Buddha, which is of particular importance within Tibetan culture.
China’s decision to close the borders is in direct response to recent protests within Tibet, which included three monks committing suicide by setting themselves on fire in the month of May alone. Two of those self-immolations took place in the nation’s capital of Lhasa, a city which previously hadn’t been subjected to those types of protests. Over the course of the past year 36 people have committed suicide in a similar fashion throughout the country.
In addition to closing the borders, the Chinese government has also moved an additional 3000 troops into Lhasa and arrested an estimated 600 Tibetans. The crackdown is expected to continue indefinitely and could shut down travel into the country for weeks or even months.
If you have plans to visit Tibet in the near future you’ll definitely want to check the status of your tour or whether or not entry visas are being granted. It seems that for at least the next few weeks there will be no one getting into the country.
[Photo credit: Philipp Roelli via WikiMedia]