Page last updated at 05:33 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 06:33 UK

Tibet reopens to foreign tourism

A police officer stands guard in Lhasa, Tibet, 20/06
Security remains tight in Lhasa, recent reports say

More than three months after a wave of violent anti-China protests, Tibet has reopened to foreign tourists, Chinese state media says.

The region was "safe" and overseas visitors were welcome, Xinhua quoted a local tourism chief as saying.

China closed Tibet to foreign tourists after riots erupted in mid-March.

The decision to allow them back in comes days after the Olympic torch's short, tightly-controlled visit to the region passed off smoothly.

"The success of the Olympic torch relay held three days ago in Lhasa demonstrated that the foundation for the social stability has been further consolidated," Xinhua quoted Tanor, deputy director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Bureau of Tourism, as saying.

"Tibet is safe. We welcome the domestic and foreign tourists."

Separately, an employee at the China Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa told the BBC that foreign tourists were being allowed back in.

Domestic tour groups have been allowed in since late April, Xinhua said.

Talks delay

Access to the region for foreign journalists remains extremely limited.

A monk stands in a doorway at Sera monastery in Lhasa on 22 June 2008
Monks led the first protests in regional capital Lhasa in March

At a news conference on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said he hoped "reporting trips to Tibet will be arranged as soon as possible when the situation in Tibet further returns to normal".

Unrest began in Tibet on 10 March, on the anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

Buddhist monks led anti-Beijing rallies in Lhasa which grew into widespread unrest among Tibetans, both in Tibet and surrounding provinces.

China says rioters killed at least 19 people, but Tibetan exiles say security forces killed dozens of protesters. It was the worst unrest in Tibet for 20 years.

Last week, a Chinese official said 116 people were still in custody over the protests - but rights groups say they fear the number is far higher.

Early in May, in what was seen as a concession to international pressure, Chinese officials held talks with two envoys of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the violence - allegations the Nobel Peace Prize winner roundly rejects.

A second round of talks between the two sides was postponed following the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province.

Tibetan activists accuse Beijing of using "delaying tactics" to avoid the issue.

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