BYLAKUPPE, India (AFP) — The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, warned Tuesday of a Chinese crackdown in Tibet ahead of next month's highly sensitive 50th anniversary of a failed uprising against Beijing.
The warning came as China reportedly closed Tibet to foreign tourists and tightened security in the Himalayan region.
"The strike-hard campaign has been re-launched in Tibet and there is a heavy presence of armed security and military forces ... all over Tibet," the Dalai Lama said in a message on the eve of the Tibetan New Year Wednesday.
"In particular, special restrictions have been imposed in the monasteries... and restrictions have been imposed on the visit of foreign tourists," he said in this southern Indian town, home to thousands of exiled Tibetans.
More than 200 Tibetans were killed last March in a Chinese crackdown against protests that coincided with the 49th anniversary of the March 10, 1959 failed uprising against Beijing, according to Tibet's government-in-exile in India.
Beijing denies this, but has reported that police killed one "insurgent", and blamed "rioters" for 21 deaths.
China's recent moves suggested it planned "to subject the Tibetan people to such a level of cruelty and harassment that they will not be able to tolerate and thus be forced to remonstrate," the Dalai Lama said.
"When this happens, the authorities can then indulge in an unprecedented and unimaginable forceful clampdown," he added.
"Therefore, I would like to make a strong appeal to the Tibetan people to exercise patience and not to give in to these provocations so that the precious lives of many Tibetans are not wasted."
The Dalai Lama has been living in India since fleeing his homeland in the wake of the failed 1959 uprising.
His warning came as tour agencies and other industry people said China had closed Tibet to foreign tourists ahead of the anniversary.
"Authorities asked tour agents to stop organising foreigners coming to Tibet for tour trips until April 1," an employee at a government-run travel agency in Lhasa, who could not be named for fear of reprisals, told AFP.
A hotel in the Tibetan capital and three travel agencies in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu that normally organise trips into Tibet also confirmed the ban on foreigners.
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