Ethical Traveler: Tibet

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 Tibetan devil dancers in traditional masks, 1945. 

After half-a-century of abuses from Chinese occupiers, Tibetans have begun pushing back with protests. In the past two years, members of the religious communities and students have been demonstrating with increasing fervor against China’s rigid policies, including strict limits on the religious and cultural freedoms of native Tibetans and the 1959 exile of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Freedoms afforded to tourists to Tibet – like that of speech – are not extended to Tibetans. Travelers to the country should consider the consequences their words may hold for others, and the negative currency of speaking out of place. As a traveler to Tibet, political discussions should be avoided. Although posing questions to locals is an excellent way to learn first-hand about any region’s cultural nuances, asking for someone’s point of view on Tibetan politics could stir up injury – and not for visitors, but for locals. Close monitoring by the government makes broaching any subject about Chinese occupation potentially harmful.

For more from Ethical Traveler on Tibet’s history and how to travel ethically in the country from those on the ground, read here.

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