China bans foreigners in Tibet ahead of Panchen Lama visit

BEIJING - China has banned foreigners and stepped up security in a sensitive Tibetan region of northwestern Gansu province, ahead of a visit by the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama, a Tibetan rights group and residents said on Thursday.
The provincial public security authorities told hotel operators in the Tibetan populated Xiahe county in Gansu that foreigners were prohibited from staying in the region, home to the Labrang monastery that erupted in protests in March 2008 when Buddhist monks and other Tibetan people loyal to the Dalai Lama confronted police and troops across the region.
"Police have ordered us not to receive foreigners to stay in our hotel for today, tomorrow and the day after," a receptionist from the Baoma Hotel, who declined to be named, told Reuters by telephone. "It's because the Panchen's visiting here."
The Beijing-anointed Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu,traditionally the second-most powerful figure in TibetanBuddhism, is being groomed to win over Tibetans in Chinaalthough he is spurned by many Tibetans as illegitimate.
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