US-based fried chicken chain KFC, part of US fastfood giant Yum! Brands, has shelved its plans to expand into Tibet because of the high costs involved.

The announcement came amid rumours that Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, had appealed to the company not to expand into the region, reported Reuters.

However, Yum! Brands spokesman Jonathan Blum said the company had not received any communication from the Dalai Lama and that the decision not to move into Tibet had been taken months ago.

“We did look into entering Tibet earlier in the year, but we decided not to move forward because it isn’t economically feasible for us to do business there today,” Blum was quoted by Reuters as saying.

“Maybe someday it will be less costly and we’ll continue to explore this option at that time,” he added.

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Yum! Brands has a large presence in China, having opened 1,100 KFC outlets there already. Its plans to expand into Tibet were greeted with fierce criticism from many pro-Tibetan groups, who oppose the Chinese control of the region.

Tashi Wangdi, the Dalai Lama’s representative in New Delhi, told Reuters the spiritual leader had issued a 14 May general appeal to KFC not to start doing business in Tibet.