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U.S. House and Senate to consider new bill seeking reciprocal access to Tibet

April 17, 2017

Sunday Guardian, April 16, 2017 - A bill has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the United States of America (USA) seeking unhindered access to Tibetan areas to US officials, journalists and common citizens, something which is routinely denied by the Chinese government.

The bill titled “The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2017” was introduced last week in the Senate by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, while in the House of Representatives it was introduced by Congressmen Jim McGovern (Democratic) and Randy Hultgren (Republican).

According to experts on China, this bill shows that the Donald Trump administration is ready to take “the bull by the horn” and is not scared of following the policy of “tit-for-tat” against China.

As per the text of the bill, the “Government of the People’s Republic of China does not grant United States officials, journalists and other citizens access to China on a basis that is reciprocal to the access that the Government of the United States grants Chinese officials, journalists, and citizens” and the “Government of China requires foreigners to obtain permission from the Tibet Foreign and Overseas Affairs Office or from the Tibet Tourism Bureau to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region”.

The bill further states that as per the Department of State, officials of the Government of the United States had submitted 39 requests for diplomatic access to the Tibet Autonomous Region between May 2011 and July 2015, but only four were granted and when such requests were granted, the diplomatic personnel were closely supervised and given few opportunities to meet local residents.

Calling for following the same policy when it comes to granting visas to Chinese nationals, the bill calls for “the Secretary of State, when granting diplomats from China access to parts of the United States, should take into account the extent to which the Government of China grants diplomats from the United States access to parts of China, including the level of access afforded to such diplomats to Tibetan areas”.

An Indian government official based in South Block, who is not allowed to speak to the media, said, “China, for decades now, has been restricting access to Tibet when it comes to independent observers, journalists and diplomats for reasons we all are aware of. Tibet for long has faced oppression. The people living there are denied basic human and civil rights. We, till now, have been subservient to China’s routine aggression and the anti-India policy it has been following. There is no harm if something similar to what the US Senators have done, is done here too.”

The legislation, it if is passed, will provide for denying access to the United States by Chinese officials who are responsible for creating or administering policies on travel to Tibetan areas.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Tibetan government-in-exile spokesperson and Secretary, Department of Information and International Relations, Sonam Dagpo said. “Central Tibetan Administration welcomes the US Congress bill to have reciprocal access to Tibetan areas. We are also grateful to the government and people of India for its support in the preservation and promotion of Tibetan language, culture and religion. India’s assistance in the education of Tibetan children will go a long way in the struggle of the Tibetan people.”

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