US Congress passes Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act

DHARAMSALA, Dec 12: A bipartisan bill that calls for denial of access to the United States for Chinese officials who design and implement travel restrictions on American journalists, diplomats and citizens from entering Tibet has been unanimously approved by the United States Congress.

In a triumph today for American citizens—including lawmakers, activists and human rights advocates concerned about the decades-long repression in Tibet—the United States Congress unanimously passed a bill that takes direct aim at the Chinese government’s unfair treatment of Americans and pushes back against its isolation of Tibet from the outside world, International Campaign for Tibet(ICT) reported.

The US Senate approved the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (H.R. 1872) on December 11, by voice vote, after passing the House of Representatives earlier this year. The bill now goes to the desk of President Trump, who is expected to sign it into law. The act is the first to directly target individual Chinese officials.

Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act is a bipartisan legislation designed to address China’s exclusion of American journalists, diplomats and citizens from Tibet. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) and in the Senate by Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.)

“The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act is an important statement of our values, and I am happy to see it sent to the President’s desk before the end of the year,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of 14 cosponsors of the bill was quoted as saying in the report.

“China’s repression in Tibet includes keeping out those who can shine a light on its human rights abuses against the Tibetan people,” Sen. Rubio, who introduced the bill in the Senate has said.

“We should not accept a double standard where Chinese officials can freely visit the United States while at the same time blocking our diplomats, journalists and Tibetan-Americans from visiting Tibet. I look forward to President Trump signing this bill into law that will help to restore some measure of reciprocity to America’s relationship with China,” he added.

The Chinese state-run media, Global Times today ran an op-ed titled ‘Tibet Act may further jeopardize China-US relations.’ Among other things, it said that “If China continues to restrict Americans from entering Tibet, Chinese officials on the list will no longer be able to enter the US. Apparently, this is the typical US way of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries through legislation.”

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act prohibits Chinese officials who design and implement Tibetan travel restrictions from entering the United States and any visa currently held by such individuals will be revoked under the bill.

The bill, first introduced by introduced by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) in 2014 in the US Congress, promotes access to Tibet for US officials, journalists and citizens. Travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese government on Tibet are more severe than for any other provincial-level entity of China.

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