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April Fool's Days in Tibet

Author: Jerome A. Cohen, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies
March 7, 2009
South China Morning Post


"Spend April Fool's Day in Tibet" might be the next Chinese travel agency slogan. Although the Chinese government claims that Tibet continues to be open to foreign visitors, agencies and hotels maintain that no visits will be allowed until April 1. This conflict between theory and practice is reminiscent of the Beijing Olympics, when the government announced that three protest facilities were open for use but punished anyone who took the statement seriously.

Of course, this is not the first time during the past year that Tibet has been sealed off; it was closed for three months after last year's tragic riots, and visitors who have managed to get there since have been subject to severe restrictions.

To be sure, for many Tibetans every day is April Fool's Day. They are trapped in a situation where, despite substantial government-sponsored improvements in their economy, infrastructure, health and education, they detest their rulers. Last week, instead of beginning Losar, their traditional two-week new year celebration, with customary feasting and drinking, they marked the occasion with solemn prayer.

From abroad, their revered Dalai Lama, who is still seeking a compromise with the central government, supported their decision to mark the memory of those who died as a result of last year's riots and the subsequent repression, and of "all those who are still suffering under Chinese rule."




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