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Tourists returning to Tibet despite heavy security

AFP  Apr 23, 2009

BEIJING — Visitor arrivals in Tibet rose 12 percent over the past six months, state media said Wednesday, despite a security clampdown during the anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

More than 430,000 tourists visited the remote Himalayan region from late October 2008 to late March, up 12 percent year on year, Xinhua news agency said, quoting the region's tourism authority.

The tourism body, which credited a winter price-cutting campaign for the increase, gave no comparative figures.

China's central government banned travellers from going to Tibet immediately after riots marking the 49th anniversary of the failed revolt in Lhasa and neighbouring regions in March last year.

Though the ban was later relaxed, tourism had suffered significantly from the security crackdown.

Xinhua last month quoted the mayor of Lhasa as saying that only 1.4 million people came to the city in 2008, a 51 percent drop from the year earlier.

Authorities tightened their clampdown on Tibet and adjacent areas again in recent months to prevent unrest during last month's 50th anniversary of the 1959 revolt that caused the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, to flee into exile.

Tour agencies told AFP that foreign travellers were banned as the anniversary approached.

China later said foreigners were permitted to apply to visit Tibet once again on April 5.

Official statistics show visitor arrivals in Tibet hit nearly 2.25 million in 2008, down 44 percent, with tourism revenue more than halving from the previous year, Xinhua said.

Tourists returning to Tibet despite heavy security
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