Chinese tour groups allowed to visit Lhasa

Other News Materials 25 April 2008 09:31 (UTC +04:00)

China allowed the first Chinese tour group to travel to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, six weeks after unrest there closed the area to all tourists, reported state media Friday.

Fifteen tourists from east China arrived Thursday evening in Lhasa and three more groups are expected to arrive through Tuesday, reported Xinhua news agency.

There remains no word on when foreign tourists will be allowed to return to Tibet. Earlier, China had said it would allow foreigners back into Tibet starting May 1, but rescinded that decision, citing the need to secure safe passage for the Olympic torch relay to Mt Everest in early May.

In 2007, Tibet received 4 million tourists - both domestic and international - up 60 per cent from 2006, according to Xinhua news agency. Tourism revenue reached 4.8 billion yuan (687 million US dollars), accounting for more than 14 per cent of the region's gross domestic product.

Protests against Chinese rule in Tibet escalated into rioting on March 14 in Lhasa.

The Chinese government has said 19 people were killed in the violence in Lhasa but the Tibetan government-in-exile said about 140 people have been killed, most of them Tibetans shot by Chinese police.

Since the outbreak of the unrests Tibetan regions of China have been closed to foreigners.