China Closes Everest to Curb Protests
Torch route deemed 'unsafe' due to 'environmental' problems
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2008 9:13 AM CDT
Tibetan exiles sing and shout slogans before a march in Takipur, about 40 kilometers, or 25 miles from Dharamshala, India, Wednesday, March 12, 2008.    (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)
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(Newser) – China has closed down Mount Everest, worried that pro-Tibet protesters might disrupt what’s supposed to be the emotional and physical pinnacle of this summer's Olympic torch relay—the ascent to the summit. Just ahead of the climbing season—April, May and early June—authorities  told expedition companies the Tibetan side of the peak is being shut down, the Times reports. “We are not able to accept your expedition, so please postpone your climbing.”

The reason given was "crowded climbing routes and increasing environmental pressures," but Chinese officials have been spooked about potential protests since last April, the Times notes, when American activists unfurled a “Free Tibet” banner from the Everest base camp. Now, as the world's gaze shifts to Beijing, monks are launching their biggest protests in decades, heightening tensions.