23 March 2011
It’s true, there are no foreign tourists allowed in Tibet during the month of March, possibly longer. Travel agencies are not issuing permits to travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region to foreigners, but domestic tourists are allowed.
As for me, I am allowed to move freely about the city, but the lack of foreigners in Lhasa means I stand out–more than usual. I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard “ཕྱི་རྒྱལ་” (chi-gyel), “outsider,” or “foreigner” as I walk by people on the street, who seem to be shocked and awed by my presence here.
Update: 27 March 2011
The People’s Daily Online posted a rebuttal on the 24th of March, saying that the state “has never imposed special restrictions on foreign tourists to Tibet,” and that “it is impossible for foreign tourists to travel Tibet as conveniently as they travel the outside world because of language and transportation factors. Foreign tourists should join tour groups to visit Tibet. Tibet has no restrictions to prevent foreign tourists from visiting there.”
(I call bullshit.)