Dharamshala, India — Foreign travelers, including tourists, journalists, and diplomats are barred from visiting Central Tibet for two months as the totalitarian communist regime in China has closed the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to the world.
The ban coincides with multiple politically significant historical dates in Tibet. According to the Associated Press (AP), the ban includes a pair of so called "sensitive" political anniversaries questioning the legitimacy of China’s rule over the occupied regionand the ban reportedly started earlier in February.
This closure comes just ahead of the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan National Uprising Day and the 2008 mass protests. The news about the closure was released by Tibet tour agents while Chinese official media channels have remained silent on this ban. According to the tour agents, the TAR has been closed to foreigners from January 30 until April 1, 2019.
2019 marks the 60th year of the Tibetan National Uprising against Chinese occupation in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, which led to the violent crackdown on Tibetans, killing of thousands of Tibetans in Tibet, and the occupation of Tibet which eventually forced His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands ofTibetans to escape into exile in democratic countries.
Spokesperson of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) Dagpo Sonam Norbu told the CTA official media, “The ban shows Tibet’s instability under the Chinese rule and the Tibetan people’s constant defiance of Chinese occupation which it claims as ‘liberation of Tibet’ after the Tibetan people’s peaceful protest on March 10, 1959.”
“Even though China boasts off massive economic development, rights and special provisions for Tibetans in Tibet, in reality, the Chinese authorities infringe the Tibetan people’s rights and freedoms, such as of religion and expression,” said Dagpo who is also Secretary of the Department of Information & International Relations, CTA.
“Foreign diplomats, media personnel, tourists and Tibetans in exile are restricted from visiting Tibet whereas the Chinese officials visit the US freely whenever they like to," He further said, adding: "The US Congress passed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, now the implementation remains the most crucial part of the law. We have to actively engage in making sure that the law is implemented successfully.”
The closure has become an annual practice since the 2008 mass protests in all regions of Tibet including “TAR”. Last year China enforced similar closure in the region between February 10 and March 31. China has constantly received backlashes from the international community and human rights experts regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet and China.
Earlier this month, in the Freedom in the World report for 2019 by the Freedom House, Tibet is once again ranked the second least free region in the world, even worse than North Korea. Over a dozen countries raised their concerns and questioned China on Tibet’s situation during China’s third Universal Periodic Review at the UN last November.
The shutdown of Central Tibet till April, on top of the already obsessively clamped-down region, will be a total blackout period with all access to the region and information flow blocked completely, naturally raising serious concerns about the Tibetans.
China claims Tibet has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries and regards His Holiness the Dalai Lama and leaders of the Government of Tibet in-Exile as dangerous separatists. Tibetans respond they were essentially independent for centuries and have protested what they regard as China’s heavy-handed rule imposed after the People’s Liberation Army’s battled its way into the Himalayan region in 1950s.
More recently, many parts of Tibet have been racked by a series of self-immolations by over 150 Tibetans, including monks, nuns and lay people protesting Chinese repressive rule and calling for the return of their spiritual leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, now aged 83.
The Chinese Communist totalitarian regime began their invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.