Alleging that Tibetan-Americans are constantly being denied visa by China to travel to Tibet or other parts of the country, a top American lawmaker has demanded a similar visa restriction against Chinese officials. “While the Chinese enjoy broad access to the US, the same is not true for US diplomats, journalists or tourists going to Tibet – including Tibetan-Americans trying to visit their place of origin. This is simply unacceptable,” said Congressman Jim McGovern.
“If China wants its citizens and officials to travel freely in the US, Americans must be able to travel freely in China, including Tibet,” he said on the House floor last week wherein he urged his Congressional colleagues to vote in support of H R 1872 Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.
In the House of Representatives the bill has been introduced by McGovern along with Congressman Randy Hultgren.
A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Marco Rubio and Tammy Baldwin.
The bill promotes access to Tibetan areas by authorising the US government to deny Chinese government officials access to the US if they are responsible for creating or implementing restrictions on the travel of American government officials, journalists, and tourists in Tibet.
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China, McGovern demanded, must remove the obstacles to freedom of movement for Tibetans within China and abroad.
“China can’t have it both ways. Either Tibetans are Chinese citizens or they’re not. If they are, they must enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Chinese citizens,” he said.
He said China must permit the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet for a visit if he so desires.
“He is a man of peace who will soon turn 82 years old. He should be able to visit his homeland,” he said.
China must also demonstrate true respect for the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people.
“A first step would be to permit an independent international investigation into the July 2015 death in custody of revered lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche,” he said.
At the same time, he urged the Trump administration to appoint the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues as quickly as possible. “To make progress, we need someone in charge,” he said and urged the US to insist that China restart the dialogue to lead to a negotiated agreement on Tibet.
McGovern urged the US Government to develop a list of Chinese officials subject to sanction under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
Urging the Trump administration to publicly engage the Dalai Lama and the democratically-elected leader of the Tibetan people, he said the State Department should take every opportunity to benefit from the Dalai Lama’s knowledge and decades of reflections.
“The Secretary of State should highlight the democratic practices of the Tibetan people, and meet personally with the Sikyong, Dr Lobsang Sangay,” he said and called on the US to engage other governments to create a Group of Friends of Tibet.
It’s time to pursue a coordinated international action in support of the Tibetan people, McGovern added.