*The US imposes new restrictions on visas for China on access to Tibet*
8th July 2020, China
The US has announced new visa bans on senior Chinese officials involved in limiting foreigners’ access to the sensitive Tibetan region, and has reaffirmed its support for “meaningful autonomy” for Tibetans, opening up another point of tension in strained Washington-Beijing relations.
State Secretary Mike Pompeo said he took action against an unspecified number of Chinese officials, including the ruling Communist Party, under a U.S. law calling on China to allow Americans to visit Tibet.
“Today I announced visa restrictions on PRC (Peoples Republic of China) officials involved in restricting foreigners’ access to Tibet. We will continue to seek reciprocity in our relationship,” Pompeo tweeted on Tuesday.
Today I announced visa restrictions on PRC officials involved in restricting foreigners’ access to Tibet. We will continue to seek reciprocity in our relationship.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 7, 2020
Beijing has continued systematically to obstruct travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas by US diplomats and other officials, journalists, and tourists, while Chinese officials and other citizens enjoy far greater access to the United States, he said in a statement.
As such, Pompeo said he is announcing visa restrictions on Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party officials determined to be “substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas,” pursuant to the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018.
In December 2018 President Donald Trump signed the Act into effect. It calls on Chinese officials suspected to be complicit in restricting visits to Tibet to refuse entry to the US. Access to Tibet is increasingly crucial for regional stability, despite the abuses of Chinese human rights and the inability of Beijing to avoid environmental degradation at the headwaters of Asia’s major rivers, he said.
Pompeo said the US will continue to work to advance Tibetan communities’ sustainable economic development, environmental conservation and humanitarian conditions within China and abroad.
“We also remain committed to supporting meaningful autonomy for Tibetans, respect for their fundamental and unalienable human rights, and the preservation of their unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity.
The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader has been demanding meaningful autonomy for Tibetans. But China has viewed the India-based 85-year-old Dalai Lama as a “separatist.” “In the spirit of true reciprocity, we will work closely with the US Congress to ensure US citizens have full access to all areas of the People’s Republic of China, including the TAR and other Tibetan areas,” Pompeo said.
According to the budget papers now making its way through the Congressional approval process, the State Department funding for Tibetan issues for fiscal year 2021 beginning October 1 has been proposed to be USD 17 million and USD 1 million for the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.
Since the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus which Trump blamed on China, relations between Washington and Beijing have spiraled downward. The two countries have sparred over China last month to enact a new law on national security in Hong Kong, media reported.
Restrictions on China’s American journalists and US retaliatory actions, as well as differences over Beijing’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim population in the restive Xinjiang region, have also contributed to the deteriorating bilateral ties.