China stops Prague mayor from Everest ascent
Apr 15, 2007 - 2:58:04 PM

Kathmandu, April 15 - Communist China has stopped one of the most popular politicians of the Czech Republic from climbing Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain.

Prague Mayor Pavel Bem, who is also the first deputy chairman of the Civic Democrats' government, and his team of mountaineers were stopped by Chinese security personnel at the Nepal-Tibet border, their mountaineering agency in Kathmandu said.

The intrepid Bem, however, quickly found a way out by obtaining another permit from the Nepalese government and set off Sunday to climb the peak.

The 43-year-old maverick mayor was voted the most popular politician in his country in a poll conducted in January in which he received a 63 percent approval rating.

Bem, who was planning to ascend the 8,848-metre high Everest with a five-member team and no bottled oxygen, ran into trouble with the opposition in his country when he announced he would be away for almost two months.

He had to also spend considerable time getting sponsorship from several companies for funding the Everest expedition.

Popular mountaineering web site had reported earlier this month that Bem's team had joined forces with a Dutch expedition.

The climbers were heading for Everest via Tibet when they were stopped by Chinese border patrols.

The web site said that apparently Bem and his team's names were on some kind of Chinese 'blacklist' and they were stopped from entering Tibet while the rest of the expedition was allowed to proceed.

The quick-witted politician returned to Kathmandu to obtain a climbing permit from the Nepal government.

The Czech team was off Sunday to scale the Everest from the southern side via Nepal, their handling agency Winhorse Trekking told IANS.

China has tightened 'security' this year following an international furore in 2006 after western climbers reported Chinese troops firing on a group of Tibetans, mostly women and children, who were trying to flee to Nepal.

A 17-year-old nun was killed in the firing and images of her death were circulated worldwide after a Romanian TV journalist filmed the incident.

Beijing is carefully screening mountaineering expeditions this year to prevent any more unflattering reports ahead of the Olympic Games it is scheduled to host next year.

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