The US has taken the first step in applying reciprocity to China on the Tibet case. A new legislation passed by the US senate prohibits Chinese officials who deny American citizens, government officials and journalists access to Tibet, from entering the US.
The Tibet Autonomous Region is currently the only area in China for which foreign travelers, including government officials, need to obtain a separate visa.
Findings of the enrolled bill point out that the Government of China imposes greater restrictions on travel to Tibetan areas than to other areas of China despite of promoting tourism in Tibetan areas. It even quotes the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang who called for Tibet to build “major world tourism destinations”.
However, it also highlights that out of 39 requests for diplomatic access to the Tibet Autonomous Region, between May 2011 and July 2015, submitted by US Government officials, only four were approved.
In addition, it brings up the fact that the Government of China has failed to respond positively to requests from the Government of the United States to open a consulate in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region.
Bill: Senate to Report to Congress Annually
According to a summary of the bill published in the website of the US Congress, the State Department shall report to Congress annually, identifying individuals who were blocked from U.S. entry during the preceding year. It should also submit a list of Chinese officials who were substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies to restrict the access of U.S. diplomats, journalists, and citizens to Tibetan areas.
The summary points out that the assessment should include the following:
- a comparison with the level of access granted to other areas of China
- a comparison between the levels of access granted to Tibetan and non-Tibetan areas in relevant provinces
- a comparison of the level of access in the reporting year and the previous year
- a description of the measures that impede the freedom to travel in Tibetan areas.
The bill, called “The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act’, was passed first by the House of Representatives in September. Now that the senate has also given its green light, the bill heads to the White House for the US President Donald Trump to sign into law.
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