I had barely stepped off the plane, gasping slightly in the thin Tibetan air, when our government minder wandered over to tell me plans for an evening of rest and adaptation to the high altitude had been canceled.
Instead a dash to see Tibet’s most sacred temple, and a news conference that dragged late into the night, set the gruelling pace for a reporting trip around China’s most sensitive region.
The one-year anniversary of deadly riots and 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile are looming in early March. Both are potential triggers for unrest and key tests of China’s control of the closed-off Himalayan plateau.
While China has promised the foreign media unfettered access to most parts of the country since hosting the Olympics, Tibet is an exception. Foreign tourists are also banned at present, except for a lucky few given special permission.