- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BEIJING (AP) - China’s border police have significantly beefed up their presence at the base of Mount Everest amid rising visitor numbers, state media reported Tuesday.

The influx of people to the area has brought increased crime to the north face of Everest, and Chinese authorities last year pledged to boost the police presence following reports of thefts of food, oxygen tanks and climbing gear.

A former police post housed in a trailer has been upgraded to a full police station, complete with a modern 19,375-square-foot (1,800-square-meter) facility, according to a report on the Tibet Daily’s Web site.

It said the station was manned by more than 20 border police, but didn’t say how big an increase that was over the previous number.

The report said the station had opened recently but gave no exact date and calls to the border police command in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, rang unanswered.

The officers are charged with securing the border, aiding area residents and visitors, and combating crime, the report said, citing the station’s commander, Zhang Shoucheng.

“Visitor numbers in recent years have been continuously rising and the original facility couldn’t meet the law and order challenges or the needs of visitors and local residents,” Zhang was quoted as saying.

Zhang said the officers would be tasked with carrying out patrols, possibly putting them into contact with Tibetans fleeing across mountain passes into neighboring Nepal.

In October 2006, Chinese border guards were filmed by Western hikers in the area firing at and apparently killing at least one Tibetan making the perilous crossing.

Security at Everest was also tightened this spring during the passage of the Olympic torch over the world’s highest peak, a highly publicized public relations stunt that came just two months after widespread protests and rioting against Chinese rule in Tibet.

China this year also completed a blacktop road leading to Everest base camp to improve access.

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