Asks Nepal to Ban Mount Everest Hikes, Riots Ensue
China has asked Nepal to keep
climbers off Mount Everest this spring, a move that would prevent
pro-Tibetan protests when the Olympic torch is carried to the summit
of the world's highest mountain, Nepalese officials said Friday.
The organizers of the Beijing Olympics have not released an exact
date for the planned ascent, but preparations point to late April
or early May. Activists critical of Chinese policy in Tibet have
unfurled banners at the Everest base camp in the past.
Nepalese officials said a decision should be reached soon on whether
to approve Beijing's request to shut down climbing on Everest until
May 10. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because
of the sensitivity of the issue, said China made the request last
from the Chinese side of the peak have already been banned until
with authorities saying they are concerned
about "heavy climbing activities and pressure on the environment."
Everest straddles the border of Chinese-controlled Tibet and Nepal,
home to many Tibetan exiles and activists. May is considered the
best time to climb Everest, but climbers have to be on the mountain
weeks before to acclimatize to the harsh weather and high altitude.
Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule turned violent
in Tibet's capital Friday, with shops and vehicles torched and
gunshots echoing through the streets of the ancient city.
The protests, which began Monday in a stunning show of defiance
by Buddhist monks, cast a shadow over Beijing's efforts to portray
China as unified and prosperous in the run-up to the games.
set shops and police vehicles on fire in central Lhasa, state
witnesses said. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing warned
Americans to stay away, saying it had "received firsthand
reports from American citizens in the city who report gunfire and
other indications of violence."
Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues
to rule the region with a heavy hand. Beijing enforces strict controls
on religious institutions and routinely vilifies the Dalai Lama,
who fled to India in 1959 amid an aborted uprising against Chinese
This week's demonstrations began on the anniversary of the 1959
uprising, with monks from one monastery demanding the release of
monks detained last fall. Political demands soon came to the fore.
Other monks and ordinary Tibetans demanded independence and unfurled
the Tibetan flag, a capital offense in China.
took encouragement from the Dalai Lama, whose speech Monday to
mark the uprising
accused China of "unimaginable
and gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom
and thepoliticizationn of religious issues" in Tibet.
The protests have become the largest and most sustained in Lhasa
since Beijing crushed a wave of pro-independence demonstrations