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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibet to reopen to foreign tourists Wednesday: state media

June 26, 2008

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
June 24, 2008

BEIJING (AFP) -- China will allow foreign tourists back into Tibet
from Wednesday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported, lifting a ban
imposed after it cracked down on anti-Chinese unrest three months ago.

The announcement late Tuesday came just three days after China
paraded the Beijing Olympic torch through the Tibetan capital Lhasa
in a tightly controlled relay which proved the Himalayan region was
now "safe" for foreigners, the report said.

"The success of the recent torch relay proved Tibet to be more
stabilised and the time was right to reopen," it quoted Tanor, deputy
director of the regional tourism authority, as saying.

"Tibet is safe. We welcome the domestic and foreign tourists."

Beijing kicked all tourists and foreigners out of Tibet after violent
protests against Chinese rule erupted in mid-March, prompting a
massive Chinese security clampdown.

The crackdown triggered global condemnation and protests around the
world over China's heavy-handed control of the remote Himalayan region.

China allowed mainland Chinese tour groups back in at the end of
April, followed by visitors from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan in May.

But it had so far maintained the ban on foreign visitors and overseas
journalists, saying Tibet remained "unsafe" for foreigners due to the
violent actions of "separatist" forces loyal to the Dalai Lama,
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, whom Beijing blames for the unrest.

Overseas pro-Tibet groups, however, have said China was using the
safety issue as an excuse to hide a massive campaign of arrests and
political "re-education" aimed at extinguishing any support for the Dalai Lama.

Tanor was quoted as saying two Swedish tourists would arrive in Lhasa
on Wednesday, followed by four from Singapore on Sunday.

The report gave no information on any restrictions visitors may face
or whether foreign journalists also would be allowed into the Himalayan region.

China's foreign ministry could not immediately provide further
information when contacted by AFP.

China's crackdown sparked international protests that dogged the
torch's month-long global journey in April before it arrived in China
for a nationwide relay.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say 203 people died in the Chinese clampdown
on the riots, which began in Lhasa after monks led peaceful protests
to mark a 1959 uprising and later spread across the Tibetan plateau.

China has reported killing one Tibetan "insurgent" and says "rioters"
were responsible for 21 deaths.

Authorities have released 1,157 people who were involved in the Lhasa
riots, Xinhua reported on the eve of Saturday's Olympic torch relay,
a move seen as an attempt to defuse tension ahead of the event.

A total of 42 people have been punished by the courts, with another
116 awaiting trial, it said, quoting a senior Tibetan official.

With the Beijing Olympics set to start in less than two months, China
faced the prospect of the Games being tarnished by continued overseas
criticism of its Tibet policies if it were to have kept the region sealed off.

State media reports also have lamented the impact of the crackdown on
the region's tourism industry.

Officials had previously predicted visitors to the remote region
would hit five million in 2008, with tourist revenue soaring 24 percent.

But just 120,000 people have visited Tibet since the end of April,
according to official figures.
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