Donald J Trump, the 45th President of the United States. Photo: White House

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Washington DC — The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 was signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump on December 19, 2018, signaling strong support for U.S. citizens to have the same access to travel throughout Tibet as Chinese nationals enjoy in the United States. The act supports access to Tibet by U.S. citizens, punishes communist authorities for restricting travel to Tibet.

The new law will require the Department of State to report to the Congress annually regarding the level of access Chinese authorities granted U.S. diplomats, journalists, and tourists to Tibetan areas in China.

The act calls for the U.S. government to restrict the Chinese communist officials from visiting the U.S., if found to have impeded travel of U.S. citizens in Tibet. The State Department will also be required to annually report to Congress the nature of access granted to U.S. diplomats, officials, journalists, and tourists to Tibet.

The act was passed by the Senate on December 11, 2018, after gaining approval from the House of Representatives in September, 2018.

Across Tibet, particularly in the so called Tibet Automonous Region are heavily restricted to foreigners, and are often subject to higher levels of surveillance by the communist totalitarian regime. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2018 Annual Report, the Chinese government continues to “severely restrict religious freedom, speech, movement, and assembly, and fail to redress popular concerns about mining and land grabs by local officials.”

Tibet is one of the 12 most repressed countries in the world (Freedom in the World report 2018) by Freedom House. "There are more foreign journalists in North Korea than there are in Tibet,’ the Washington Post reportedly, discussing the rising trend of Tibetan self-immolations - a form of political protest against Chinese rule. More than 150 Tibetan, including monks, nuns and women, have set themselves on fire in Tibet since 2009.

“This is truly a turning point for Americans, Tibetans and all who care about equality, justice and human rights,” said Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). “By passing this impactful and innovative law, the US has blazed a path for other countries to follow and let the Chinese government know that it will face real consequences for its discrimination against the Tibetan people.”

Despite many attempts, American diplomats have only had limited access to Tibet and almost no Beijing-based foreign journalists have been able to travel to Tibet to cover the conditions there, including the self-immolations, Matteo said.

“I’m glad that the President signed our bill, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, into law. For too long, China has covered up their human rights violations in Tibet by restricting travel. But actions have consequences, and today, we are one step closer to holding the Chinese officials who implement these restrictions accountable,” said Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass), who introduced the bill. “I look forward to watching closely as our law is implemented, and continuing to stand with the people of Tibet in their struggle for religious and cultural freedom.”

“China’s repression in Tibet includes keeping out those who can shine a light on its human rights abuses against the Tibetan people,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said while sponsoring the act. “We should not accept a double standard where Chinese officials can freely visit the United States while at the same blocking our diplomats, journalists and Tibetan-Americans from visiting Tibet,” Senator Marco Rubio added.

China isolating Tibet even more from the outside world;

  • China attempts to control the spread of information inside Tibet through strict monitoring and censorship over social media, email and telephone communications.
  • Communications are often blacked out after protests and security incidents, according to a report by Reporters Sans Frontières in 2012.
  • China also strictly controls the flow of information out of Tibet.
  • Foreign journalists, human rights organisations and diplomats are rarely allowed entry into Tibet and, when they are, they are closely chaperoned by Chinese officials.
  • Tibetans who share information inside Tibet or attempt to send information outside Tibet face arrest and lengthy jail sentences.
  • In 2018, China again ranks as low as 176th and bottom-ranked North Korea at 180-country index, by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Since 2008, Tibet remained inside the Biggest-Black Map on the planet.

Human Rights violations in Tibet;

  • Tibetans face intense surveillance in their daily lives, with party officials monitoring their movements and activities.
  • Peaceful protests are suppressed with severe violence. Protesters are imprisoned, tortured and may even be shot.
  • Writers, singers, artists and teachers are jailed for celebrating Tibetan national identity and for any criticism of China's rule.
  • The Tibetan flag and national anthem are banned.
  • Prisons in Tibet are full of people detained for simply expressing their desire for freedom.
  • Tibetan Buddhism is seen as a threat to the occupying Chinese state.
  • Tibetans charged with "separatism“ can face sentences up to and including the death penalty.
  • Thousands of individuals have been evicted and thousands of homes demolished – and these removals continue today.
  • Even children face abuses of their freedom and human rights.