Earlier this month, travel agents told the media of a state ban on foreign travel to Tibet. It seems foreigners are once again allowed entrance, albeit under some curious stipulations. Columbia University Tibetan Studies professor Robert Barnett tweeted a link to an update on the Land of Snows travel blog earlier today:
[…]The early word out of Lhasa and the Tibet Tourism Bureau, which many major news networks across the globe picked up, was that the TAR would be closed until late August or early September. However, the Tibet Tourism Bureau had a meeting today (June 18) and will begin processing permits for foreigners again starting on June 20th. There are still a lot of restrictions. Only groups of 5 people from the same country will have their permits processed. This means that if you are traveling with a mixed nationality group, you probably will not be able to get travel permits. Also, for some reason the Tibet Tourism Bureau has stated that people from Norway, the UK, Austria and Korea will not be able to apply for permits to travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region. No real reason was given today for this by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Also, when the TAR reopens on June 20th, Everest Base Camp will remain closed. Again, no reason was given for this. Lastly, the Tibet Tourism Bureau has told travel agencies that in order to process permits for the required groups of 5, travel agencies will need to submit proof that 50% to 100% of the tour is paid for in advance. This means that anyone planning to go to the TAR will need to pay at least a 50% deposit before their permits can be processed and may even need to have the tour paid for in full.
Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, and other online travel guides and blogs have been abuzz with the news, and it looks like as of today Tibet travel permits will be available to foreigners outside of those countries still on the blacklist.
Dr. Barnett also posted a follow-up tweet explaining why certain nationals may still be banned:
Banned from Tibet: Norway (gave Nobel to Liu XB); UK & Austrian (leaders met the Dalai Lama); Koreans (invited Tib exiles to a Bdhst forum).
— Robert Barnett (@RobbieBarnett) June 18, 2012
See prior CDT coverage of some of the moves that may have irritated China enough to bar citizens from grouping in 5s and spending their summer vacations on the roof of the world: Norway’s Nobel Committee awarding Liu Xiabo the 2010 Peace Prize and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. Also see “Dalai-Led Uyghur Separatists Not Welcome,” via CDT.