Foreigners banned from Tibet, mass arrests reported in Lhasa
17 March 2008
Beijing (dpa) – China has suspended permits for foreigners to travel to its Tibet Autonomous Region, an official said on Monday, as a Tibetan exile group reported mass arrests ahead of a deadline for protesters to surrender to police in the regional capital.
Officials stopped issuing the travel permits, which are not required for any other Chinese region, because of safety concerns, Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the regional government, told reporters in Beijing.
"We also suggest foreign tourists now in Tibet leave in the coming days," state media quoted Ju Jianhua, head of the region’s foreign affairs office, as saying.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau reported that staff from international non-governmental organisations were ordered to leave Lhasa by Monday, raising fears that troops could toughen their crackdown on the protesters once a deadline for protesters to surrender passed at midnight on Monday.
The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy on Monday said that paramilitary police had already arrested hundreds of Tibetans over the weekend in Lhasa.
The police reportedly detained all former political prisoners and conducted house-to-house searches, focussing on young Tibetan men.
Many Tibetan residents reported young men from their families being "beaten and dragged away" by security forces, the centre said.
Qiangba Puncog said that 13 people had died since rioting erupted in Lhasa on Friday, rejecting reports by the Tibetan government in exile, which said it had confirmed at least 80 deaths in the city.
The Tibetan official said 61 security officers were injured, six of them critically, and denied that police had opened fire on protesters.
"The security personnel showed restraint in the entire process of handling the incident," he said of the rioting.
[Copyright dpa 2008]