The US Enacted Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act
IndraStra Open Journal Systems
IndraStra Global

The US Enacted Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act

By IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: View of the Potala Palace from the foothill of Chagpo Ri (Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China) dated May 23 2006/ Source: Ondřej Žváček, Wikimedia Commons

Image Attribute: View of the Potala Palace from the foothill of Chagpo Ri (Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China) dated May 23 2006/ Source: Ondřej Žváček, Wikimedia Commons

On December 19, 2018, US President Donald Trump has signed a bipartisan bill H.R. 1872, the "Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018," which promotes access for diplomats, other officials, journalists, and others from the United States to Tibetan areas of China.

The bill, which was earlier passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, seeks to impose a visa ban on Chinese officials who deny American citizens, government officials and journalists' access to the remote region of Tibet. 

The law requires the Secretary of State to assess Americans' level of access to Tibet within 90 days of its enactment and to send a report to Congress every year afterward identifying the Chinese officials involved in the formulation or execution of policies to restrict the access of U.S. diplomats, journalists, and citizen to Tibetan areas. The Secretary will then ban those officials from receiving visas to enter the US. In similar lines, the State Department shall report to Congress annually with regards to the enactment of the act and its outcomes.

A formerly independent nation, Tibet was taken over by and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, following which Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India. 

Chinese authorities now maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identities, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Highlights of the Act:

Section 4: This bill requires the Department of State to report to Congress annually regarding the level of access Chinese authorities granted U.S. diplomats, journalists, and tourists to Tibetan areas in China. Such assessment shall include:
  • a comparison with the level of access granted to other areas of China,
  • a comparison between the levels of access granted to Tibetan and non-Tibetan areas in relevant provinces,
  • a comparison of the level of access in the reporting year and the previous year, and
  • a description of the measures that impede the freedom to travel in Tibetan areas.

Section 5: No individual who is substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas may enter the United States if:
  • the requirement that foreigners must receive official permission to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region remains in effect, or has been replaced by a similar regulation that also requires foreigners to gain a level of permission to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region that is not required for other provinces; and
  • travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats, officials, journalists, and citizens to Tibet Autonomous areas in Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu Provinces are greater than travel restrictions to other areas.


"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 Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who originally introduced the bill.

"By passing this impactful and innovative law, the US let Beijing know that its officials will face real consequences for discriminating against Americans and Tibetans and has blazed a path for other countries to follow," said Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that advocates for human rights for the Tibetan people.

"With this law, the US sends a strong message to Beijing that it needs to abide by international norms on human rights, not only on trade," Mecacci said. "It is imperative now that it is fully implemented and the movement for reciprocal access to Tibet continues to grow around the world."

“As a Tibetan American who has the desire and the right to visit Tibet, I commend President Trump for signing this important bill. The unanimous passage of this act by the Congress sends a strong message to China that it cannot keep Tibet—and the myriad human rights abuse its government commits there—hidden from the world. If Chinese officials want to freely visit the United States, they need to reciprocate access to Tibet, or else the concerned Chinese officials will face consequences. I strongly urge the President to implement this law to the full extent,” said Dr. Tenzin Dorjee (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB), an Associate Professor at the Department of Human Communication Studies, California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) and a Chair at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

"We express strong opposition to the US, who is obstinate in signing into law the so-called Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 adopted at the Congress. Just as we pointed out on many occasions, the act has severely violated the basic norms governing international relations, grossly interfered in China's domestic affairs, sent out a seriously wrong signal to the Tibet Independence separatist forces and been highly detrimental to the exchanges and cooperation between China and the US." said Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson at Regular Press Conference on December 20, 2018. She further added, "China's door to the outside world will only open wider and wider, and Tibet will become more and more open. China welcomes more and more foreigners to Tibet for visit, travel, and business, and this policy will remain unchanged. But the precondition is that they must abide by the Chinese laws and relevant regulations and go through necessary procedures".