The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approves Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) being thanked by ICT President Matteo Mecacci after the vote. Photo from ICT

Dharamshala: The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, under which the Chinese officials who deny Americans entry to Tibet will be denied entry to the US.

The US House of Representatives passed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act on 25 September 2018. The bipartisan bill promotes access to Tibet for United States officials, journalists, NGOs and citizens. The legislation requires the Department of State to deny visas to individuals who have been involved in restricting access by foreigners to Tibetan areas of China, and it requires the department to revoke existing visas issued to such individuals.

The bill now on its final course is expected to be taken up by the Senate.

Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet said, “The unanimous support expressed today by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) once again reflects the widespread concern of the American people for the situation inside Tibet and for the lack of access for US citizens.”

“We wish to thank in particular the main sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Sen. Rubio, and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the SFRC, Sen. Corker and Sen. Menendez, for their steadfast and principled stance in support of reciprocity in US-China relations.”

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and has 13 cosponsors as of Nov. 28, with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

The Act also highlights the discriminatory process that Tibetan-Americans have to go through at the Chinese Embassy and consulates whey they apply for visas to visit Tibet on pilgrimage or to meet their relatives.

“Under the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, the Secretary of State will have to send a report to Congress identifying the Chinese officials responsible for these unfair policies. Those officials will then be denied visas to enter the US until China’s policies change,” the ICT said.

“Currently, China heavily restricts Americans (as well as all foreigners) from entering Tibet—a historically independent country that China has occupied for nearly 70 years—even though Chinese citizens are free to travel throughout the US and other democratic countries.”

It further said, “In recent years, politicians from both parties have become increasingly outraged at China’s unfair treatment of the US and have demanded that China’s government reciprocate on issues of trade as well as freedom of access for American journalists, diplomats and citizens.”

Over the past year, Tibetan-Americans and Tibet supporters throughout the US have been reaching out to their Members of Congress to ask them to raise the issue of access to Tibet and to support the bill. (Source: ICT)