By MINZU TUANJIE
Lhasa (China Daily Show) – Tibet is to be closed for routine cleaning and repairs, the Chinese Foreign Ministry told reporters yesterday.
The quotidian, non-newsworthy maintenance period could take months, or even years, explained spokesman Liu Weimin, adding that the closure was to “ensure safety” for foreign visitors and make sure Tibet was presented “at its best.”
“This is perfectly normal and should not be misinterpreted for political reasons,” Liu warned casually.
“Western countries often shut down roads or public buildings for repair, so there’s absolutely nothing unusual about sealing off an entire autonomous region from the outside world.”
More than 30 self-immolation attempts by Tibetans – including two outside Lhasa’s heavily visited Johkang Temple in May – have wracked the province in the last six months.
But Liu said the quarantine was simply a matter of clearing-up “routine wear and tear.”
“As a major tourist attraction and national treasure, Tibet occasionally requires stability repairs,” said Liu. “These are normal but difficult – and potentially dangerous – to undertake while the region is open to foreign tourists and international media.”
The maintenance is part of a planned five-year series of national renovations, which is expected to see Xinjiang close for two years and re-open as an ethnic minority theme park.
The full list of works in Tibet has not been disclosed but China Daily Show has learnt that priorities will include widening and repaving major streets to cater for visitors traveling in urban assault vehicles, conducting fire safety re-education campaigns at all major attractions, and adding a handicap-accessible ramp on the second floor of the Potala Palace.
As a sign of the government’s commitment to employee safety, all re-education will be conducted by an elite branch of the Chinese military.
Online searches for ‘Tibet’ now return the message: “This region is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Reporters seeking further information at the border were last night confronted with a sign outside the crossing station at Batang, warning ‘Caution: wet floor.’
Leaning heavily on a mop, cigarette dangling from her lips, 51-year-old cleaning lady Wen Danlin said she didn’t know anything about the government’s plans to close Tibet.
She then pointed to a series of fresh footprints on her recently mopped floor and tutted loudly.
Due to the ongoing maintenance, no Tibetans are available for comment for the foreseeable future. But last night, the sound of hammering, drills and high-pitched screams could be heard across the Sichuan-Tibet border, suggesting work had already begun in earnest.
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