China is known the world over for it's repressive tactics toward its own citizens, and now Beijing has told foreign travel agencies it will no longer be issuing international entry permits to Tibet, which could dramatically slow tourism in the area.
ABC reports that prior to the recent crackdown, China was still issuing entry permits to groups no larger than five consisting of the same nationality. That restriction began in May. The announcement comes a week after the self-immolation of two Tibetans.
According to the International Business Times, the ban was initiated by the Chinese National Tourist Office, will last at least through June, but no official end date has been set. As it stands, Chinese nationals may still be able to visit the area.
"The latest we've heard is that it will last until November," Marilyn Downing Staff, founder and president of Asia Transpacific Journeys told the International Business Times. "Now, of course, is the high season and it's unfortunate on so many fronts. But one thing to keep in mind in Tibet is the tourism is now driven by the Chinese, so the few westerners that turn up in Tibet are not exactly driving the economy."
China, wary of it's image, may have chosen to stop tourism to Tibet as a way of protecting its image by preventing westerners from witnessing any more self-immolations.
ABC reports that Free Tibet, a campaign promoting Tibetan independence, claims there have been more than 30 self-immolations since March 2011. Most recently, on May 27 two Tibetans were the first to set themselves on fire in Lhasa, the region's capital.
Stopping tourism to Tibet will hurt the local economy to some degree as the industry made the region $3.58 billion last year.
(Photo by Nathan Freitas via Wikimedia Commons)