China closes Mt. Everest to keep protesters at bay from Olympic torch

London, March 13 : China has closed Mount Everest to climbers for keeping protesters away from the Olympic torch parade.

According to a report in Times Online, Chinese authorities have halted access to its side of the mountain that straddles the border between Tibet and Nepal amid reports of a third day of protests by Tibetan monks around Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Carrying the Olympic torch to the 29,035ft (8,840m) summit has been hailed by the Games host city, Beijing, as one of the grandest feats of the event.

Running the relay through one of China's most restive regions, where many Tibetans chafe under Beijing's rule, also risks politicising the Games.

The leadership is likely to be very anxious about stability in the Himalayan region as the Olympics approach, after a series of demonstrations by monks on a scale that has not been seen in nearly 20 years.

Recently, monks at Ganden monastery, a hilltop eyrie 30 miles (50km) from Lhasa, staged a protest and armed paramilitary police were sent in to restore order, Tibetan sources said.

Witnesses described soldiers firing tear gas to disperse more than 600 monks as they tried to march out of the Sera monastery on the edge of Lhasa. The monks were forced to a halt at the gates after police called in the military.

Because the order by Chinese authorities coincides with the annual climbing season in April, May and the first weeks of June, it will be a huge disappointment to mountaineers already preparing for the season and will hit the incomes of the bearers, guides and sherpas.

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