The United States Congress on Tuesday passed a bill that seeks to impose a visa ban on Chinese officials who deny American citizens, officials and journalists access to Tibet, reported PTI. The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, passed by a unanimous voice vote by the House of Representatives, seeks the same access to Tibet for Americans that Chinese citizens have to the US.
In the past, the US has raised questions about the lack of access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region for its citizens, journalists, diplomats and academics. China considers Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama a “separatist” promoting an independent state.
“The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act is about fairness, human rights and careful US diplomacy at its core,” Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal told the House. “For too long, China restricted access to Tibet, preventing journalists from observing human rights abuses in Tibet and preventing Tibetan Americans from visiting their home country. This bill seeks to reset that table.”
The legislation includes a national security waiver under which the US secretary of state will submit to the Congress an assessment of the level of access granted to Americans. If the secretary concludes that travel restrictions are in place, the appropriate Chinese officials will be ineligible to enter the US.
Reciprocity is the basis of diplomacy and the legislation is based on that, said Jayapal. “If Americans are not granted the same access to Tibet that the Chinese enjoy in the US, then there should be consequences,” she said. “This is more than reasonable and long overdue.”
Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the bill will send out a signal that the US will stand up for human rights of the Tibetan people. “Beijing’s policy’s on Tibet are not only immoral and unjust, but are threatening the stability of a crucial area for the US interests,” she said. “So we must put pressure on China to stop its repression.”
Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said that it was vital for the US to have a diplomatic presence in Tibet and would indicate to China that interference in Tibetan affairs would be deemed unacceptable.
The move comes days after both China and the US imposed economic sanctions on each other. Last week, the Donald Trump administration said it will begin to levy new tariffs of 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. The tariffs came into force on Monday and will rise to 25% on January 1, the White House said. In retaliation, China imposed taxes on $60 billion worth American products.