Tibet to 'reopen to tourists soon'

Chinese media say temples affected by March unrest will restart religious activities.

    Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, was rocked by violent anti-Chinese protests last month [GALLO/GETTY]

    Tourism is a vital source of cash for the region, where four million tourists last year flocked to see historic temples, experience Tibetan culture.
    All foreigners visiting Tibet need special permits.
    'Safety reasons'
    The Chinese government says the measures are for safety reasons.
    The Xinhua news agency said that Lhasa temples affected by the unrest would also restart their religious activities soon.
    It paraphrased Tubdain Cewang, a Tibetan official, as saying "Lhasa's temples were recovering from the riot, with religious activities returning to order, and would reopen to tourists in the near future".
    The Drepung Monastery "will soon hold activities including Buddhist services and debates on Buddhist doctrines five times every month, as before the March 14 riot hit the city", it quoted Ngawang Dongjue, the temple's administrative director, as saying.
    Chinese authorities announced at the beginning of the month that Tibet would be reopened to foreign and domestic tourists on May 1, a national holiday in China.
    But a tourism official told the AFP news agency on Thursday that China had abandoned plans to reopen the Himalayan region on that date.
    The US-based International Campaign for Tibet first reported the postponement last week, saying Tibet might not be reopened until after the August 8-24 Beijing Olympics.
    The China Daily report, however, citing the Tibet regional government, rejected suggestions it had abandoned the May 1 plan.
    Tibet protests
    Also on Saturday, hundreds of Chinese protested in the central city of Wuhan against France's attitude towards Tibet and the Olympic Games, according to police and witnesses.
    Many of the demonstrators congregated in front of Carrefour, the French supermarket accused by some Chinese people of allegedly supporting Tibet.
    There were 300 demonstrators to start off with, a source said quoting the local police in Wuhan.
    On the other hand, in India, a group of 250 Tibetan exiles and other activists resumed their march to protest against Chinese rule over Tibet.
    The group plans to walk through northern India to Tibet, arriving as the Olympics start in August.
    The march began a month ago, but was suspended when more 100 marchers were arrested by the Indian authorities.
    Torch travails
    Meanwhile, in Thailand, the country's prime minister said Thais should be honoured to have the Olympic torch pass through their capital Bangkok later on Saturday.
    Samak Sundarawej said anyone trying to disrupt the relay will be jailed and foreigners will be deported.
    Tight security will line the 10.5km route, which could be changed or shortened at the last minute.
    The relay has been disrupted by human-rights protests in Paris, London and San Francisco.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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