In an effort to put pressure on the Chinese government with regard to its human rights violations in Tibet, the Trump administration has introduced the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which punishes Chinese officials who prevent American officials, journalists, and other citizens from traveling to Tibet. Tibetan territory is under heavy watch by Chinese security officials, who make it difficult or impossible for foreigners to visit. The Communist Party has banned foreign diplomats from going to central Tibet without official permission or as part of a propaganda tour, and regular travelers can’t access the region without an organized tour group.
The new law is meant to identify which Chinese officials are responsible for placing restrictions on foreign travelers, and then either revoke their US visas or make it impossible to obtain one. Ultimately, the law is intended to encourage China to loosen the limits they have imposed on Tibet travel. Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern said in a written statement, “For too long, China has covered up their human rights violations in Tibet by restricting travel. But actions have consequences.”
This harsh stance on China’s Tibet policy has drawn rare bipartisan support in the US, leading to the legislation’s easy passage. Americans overwhelmingly oppose China’s oppression of the Tibetan people, and the suppression of their culture. Chinese officials have demolished the homes of Tibetan nuns and monks, quelled Tibetan language education, and tried to destroy Tibetan individualism in what the Dalai Lama calls “cultural genocide.” By restricting travel, the Chinese government hopes to keep these atrocities out of the public eye.