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China has allowed foreign tourists to visit Tibet for the first
China has allowed foreign tourists to visit Tibet for the first time since violent anti-government rallies in March in the restless autonomous region, the China Daily newspaper reported on Thursday.

The unrest in early March in Tibet, which started when Buddhist monks took to the streets to mark the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, left 19 people dead and 623 injured, according to official Chinese reports.

The situation in the region has stabilized since then and the first foreign reporters were allowed in the region on June 20.

The first two foreign tourists who arrived on Wednesday in the regional capital, Lhasa, were from Sweden, and four tourists from Singapore will arrive on Sunday, according to the newspaper.

A total of four million tourists visited Tibet in 2007 earning around $700 mln for the local tourist industry. After the March riots, though, visitor numbers plummeted by 76%.

Beijing has accused the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of orchestrating the trouble. He has denied the allegations.

China's handling of the protests was severely criticized in the West. Some leaders called for a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in August if China failed to agree to hold talks with the Dalai Lama.

Chinese authorities and envoys of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader met in China in May. They failed to reach a deal over the future of Chinese rule in Tibet, but agreed to resume negotiations at a later date.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959, has repeatedly said he seeks autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from China.


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