Tibet to be reopened to tourists from May 1
China on Thursday, announced that Tibet would be reopened to foreign tourists from May 1, weeks after Lhasa witnessed violent anti-government protests spearheaded by monks.
The riots that broke out first in Lhasa and spread to other Tibetan-inhabited areas in neighbouring Sichuan and Gansu provinces have left 20 people dead and over 700 injured.
China poured troops into the trouble-hit areas and kept Tibet out of bounds until last week when it allowed a select delegation of journalists followed by diplomats on government-controlled trips.
The Tibetan regional government had stopped issuing tourist permits to foreign travellers on March 16 and recommended Chinese travel organisations to postpone tour plans after the March 14 riots that China has blamed on the Dalai Lama, living in exile in India. The Tibetan leader has denied the charge.
All travel agencies would be allowed to arrange tours, and independent travellers would also be welcome, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the region's Bureau of Tourism deputy director Zhanor as saying.
The government had not imposed a ban on travels to the region but suggested travel agencies to suspend organising tours to Tibet following the riots, Wang Songping, deputy director of the regional tourism bureau said.
Eighty per cent of the stores damaged in the riots have come to back to normal operation, state media said.
Four million tourists from both home and abroad visited Tibet in 2007, a sharp 60 per cent rise from 2006.
After coming under sharp criticism, the Chinese government had allowed organised access to Lhasa to journalists who were taken on a three-day trip which was marred when a group of monks staged a dramatic protest before them, saying there was no religious freedom and the government was telling "lies".
The diplomats were also taken on a hurriedly organised trip to present government side of the picture, as Tibetan groups and human rights groups alleged that excessive force was used to quell the unrest.
China has put the official death toll at 20 but the Tibetan groups claim it is 140.