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12 February, 2009

China closes Tibetan areas to foreigners

March 10 marks the 50th anniversary of a failed rebellion in Tibet against Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile in India after the uprising was crushed.

(AP) (Beijing) Swaths of western China that have large Tibetan populations have been declared off limits to foreign visitors, local officials confirmed Thursday, ahead of the politically sensitive 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising.

An official at the tourism office of northwestern Gansu province's Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is home to a major monastery and large Tibetan communities, said the region was again closed to foreigners and would not be open until late March. The official, who did not identify himself, as is common in China, did not say when the restrictions were put in place.

Last year, protests to mark the anniversary spun out of control, with deadly riots breaking out in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

The Chinese government says 22 people died in the riots, but Tibetan advocates say many times that number were killed in the protests and subsequent crackdown.

"Since the March 14 incident, it's true that foreign journalists find it harder to go to Tibet. I think you all know the reasons. The government has taken some measures," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.Several journalists have reported being expelled from Tibetan-populated areas in China in the past week.

Read the entire story at the Associated Press web site

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