Wednesday, June 25, 2008

China - tourists return to Tibet

Foreign tourists are being allowed to return to Tibet, it was announced today. Tibet Tourism Bureau spokesman, Liao Lisheng told reporters "Tibet is open now to all travellers from home and abroad". On Wednesday the first group of foreign tourists arrived at Lhasa airport, the first such visit since riots swept through the Tibetan capital in March. The relaxing of rules applied to foreign visitors comes nearly three months after local Secretary of the CPC in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, made an announcement that people from all over the world were welcome in the province [BBC / CNN]. Journalists still face restrictions in the province but the 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".
It is far from normal in the south of the country as tropical storm Fengshen sweeps its way north through Hong Kong and into Guangdong and Jianxi province. The storm, remnants of a cyclone which killed hundreds as it swept through the Philippines, is expected to dissipate over the next 24 hours [CNN / Xinhua].

China is in constant focus by Western media and today the village of Nanjie was the highlight of a report by al-Jazeera. The so-called ‘last communist village in China’ has been the focus of reports before. In 2002 the BBC reported from the small village in Henan province where “Mao's slogan 'to serve the people' is really put into practice here. It's not just empty rhetoric," according to one woman tourist from Chairman Mao's home province of Hunan. But a Communist Party official told Al-Jazeera that corruption was becoming a problem in the idealistic village where residents benefit from free food and healthcare. Wang Hongbin told al-Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, “Corruption is a socialist problem as well as a historical problem, it exists in a capitalist country as well as a socialist country. Whether you use Mao‘s ideology to guide a country‘s people, corruption is inevitable” [video].

In neighbouring Shaanxi province the Olympic torch relay continued its journey towards Beijing. It followed a 9.8 km route through Yuncheng city before heading to Pingyao [Xinhua]. Meanwhile hundreds of TV broadcasters are already beginning to arrive ahead of the August games set to take place in 42 days time [Olympics].

In other news emerging from China two jet fighters have crashed in the north of the country [BBC]. The Jian-8 fighters collided above the suburbs of Hohhot city in Inner Mongolia during a training mission but both pilots are said to have ejected safely according to the BBC which reported the story on its website today [25/06/2008]. It is the second plane crash in the region this month. On Wednesday last week Xinhua reported that 3 people died when a small plane crashed into a hillside. The eight-seat plane, owned by China Flying Dragon Special Aviation Company, was on a mine exploring mission according to the state run news agency.

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