Banned climbers and curbed media: China to clean Everest and re-open Tibet?

(Jun 25, 2008 A trekking agency in Nepal reported to its clients today that according to a brief email from their Tibetan Tour Agent; Tibet seems to open for normal tour groups by end June.

It is stated that normal groups will be allowed in first, followed by other trekking groups. As for climbing expeditions, confirmation from the Tibet Mountaineering Association is reportedly expected to be announced shortly.

Everest closed and re-opened – when, how and why…

Everest north side was closed earlier this spring; back then reportedly for security reasons, and has not yet been re-opened. Also other Tibetan 8000ers were made off-limit to climbing.

In a June 23 report this week, Chinese state media said that authorities will limit climbers on Everest north side in the future, for environmental reasons.

“Tibet may limit the number of tourists and mountaineers” said a director of the Tibet Environmental Protection Bureau […] he, however, did not say when the restriction would be imposed,” China Daily reported.

“At present, there are no restrictions on the number of tourists to the mountain or the areas they can visit,” China daily further stated – a surprise to mountaineering outfitters who haven’t yet been allowed to bring groups in.

Not only Everest.

Over the weekend the Chinese Government went ahead with its Olympic torch relay through Tibet. Media was curbed, and heavy security guaranteed there were no human rights demonstrations ABC news reported.

“The relay ended up being a rallying point for local political leaders who vowed to destroy the Dalai Lama,” said the news source. This goes against the Olympic committee organizers’ claim that the Olympic event is not politicized. The committee repeatedly uses this argument to explain its indifference to human rights protesters.

Foreigners are still banned from entering Tibet, only a handful of journalists were allowed into Lhasa to cover the torch relay, and most ordinary people were told to stay off the streets until it was over, ABC news said.

The number game.

Next year marks the 50 year anniversary of Dalai Lama’s forced exile from Tibet. Final uprisings could be expected in the occupied country, with the decimated Tibetan population possibly feeling it’s “now or never.” China has already restricted hunting trips and other tourism events to the country until after 2009. The Everest restrictions are however blamed on the environment.

“More than 40,000 tourists visited the mountain last year. And even though their number was less than 10 percent of those who visited the mountain on the Nepal side in 2000,” China Daily claims. “Environmentalists estimate they could have left behind as much as 120 tons of garbage – an average of 3 kg per tourist.”

Sources for and studies of those numbers are unclear and details concerning the figures have neither been offered nor confirmed.

Comparisons have neither been made vs. other – far greater – environmental issues caused by China in Tibet such as major deforestation, dumping of nuclear waste, and Chinese mining currently heavily polluting Tibetan rivers.

* Previous story – Everest north side: When will the Chinese peaks open for climbing?

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