On Riot Anniversary, China Closes Tibet to Tourists

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Tibetans protest Hu Jintao's visit to Washington on Jan. 19, 2001.

(REUTERS / Yuri Gripas)

China is closing Tibet to foreign visitors ahead of the three-year anniversary of anti-government protests in western China.

Though travel through Tibet has often required special permission, tourists could arrange tours through select travel agents. Those avenues are now closed, as authorities have asked travel agents to no longer arrange trips through the region and visas are being denied.

(More on TIME.com: See the effects of the Tibetan protests, one year later.)

In 2008, protests erupted in Lhasa on Mar. 14, just a few months before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Tibetan grievances with the Chinese government flared up and mass protests, along with looting and violence, ensued. While the official figures place twenty-two people killed as a result, reports still remain inconclusive regarding the actual number of people that died during the event.

According to the state-run Xinhua agency, some of the reasons cited for the closure include safety concerns of overcrowding due to the “grand ceremony [commemorating] the 60th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet” and the “current cold winter weather.”

(More on TIME.com: See the initial report regarding the travel ban.)

Because of the cold, March tends to be low seasons for tourists – and some in the area say the ban’s impact will likely be minimal.  However, the Associated Press mentioned that the ban could last up to three months. (via the Guardian)

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of the uprising in Tibet.)