China says Tibet still off-limits to foreigners
BEIJING - TIBET remains closed to foreign journalists and tourists, China's foreign ministry said on Thursday nearly four months after unrest broke out in the region.
'Due to the violent incident in Lhasa on March 14, at present (the regional capital) Lhasa and all of Tibet are still not open to the outside world,' foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told journalists.
'But the responsibility should not fall on our shoulders,' he said, blaming 'the Dalai clique'.
China refers to the 'Dalai clique' as the coterie of officials that form the exiled government of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Beijing has blamed them for fomenting the deadly March riots in Lhasa and other Tibetan-populated regions around China, and accused them of waging an independence campaign to sabotage the August Beijing Olympics.
Exiled Tibetan leaders say more than 200 Tibetans died in the crackdown on the protests. China denies those allegations and says Tibetan 'rioters' were responsible for 21 deaths.
Critics of the Chinese government have accused it of sealing off Tibet so it can conduct its security crackdown without foreign witnesses.
Mr Qin said that once stability was restored to Tibet, the government would consider allowing foreign journalists to enter the Himalayan region.
The Olympic torch was originally scheduled to travel through Tibet for three days next week - accompanied by foreign reporters - as part of its relay ahead of the Beijing Games.
But organisers have said the leg would be shortened to just one day as part of a rescheduling due to last month's deadly earthquake in Sichuan province.
Despite repeated requests, they have not disclosed when the Tibet relay leg will happen or whether foreign reporters will be allowed to go. -- AFP
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