On February 26, 2015 Members of Congress re-introduced a bipartisan legislation to promote travel by Americans to Tibetan areas where access is routinely denied by Chinese authorities.
“The Bill conveys a clear message to the Chinese leadership that if they don’t allow American citizens into Tibet, then Chinese officials with oversight on Tibet should not be allowed into the United States,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet. “For decades, restricted access to Tibet for independent observers, journalists and diplomats has raised serious concerns as it has allowed the Chinese government to oppress Tibetans without accountability,” added Mecacci.
The bill, H.R. 1112, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act 2015, was introduced by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) on February 26, 2015. The legislation would deny access to the United States by Chinese officials who are responsible for creating or administering policies on travel to Tibetan areas until China eliminates discriminatory restrictions on access by Americans to Tibet.
Last year, after introducing a similar legislation, Congressman McGovern said in a press release, “Restricted access to Tibet leaves Tibetans in virtual isolation from the world community, limiting international exchange and the ability to objectively assess the human rights situation there.” “Our goal is an open and accessible Tibet, where Americans can visit and learn from the wonders of the Tibetan Plateau – its natural beauty, its people, and its rich culture and religious heritage,” he had added then.
No Member of Congress appears to have been permitted by China to visit Tibet since the 1990s. A few visits by Congressional staff have occurred since 2008, but they were on a tight itinerary controlled by government minders. By contrast, delegations of officials from the Tibetan Autonomous Region, including the chairman, visited the U.S. Congress last year and others have visited on several occasions in recent years.
In addition to Reps. McGovern and Pitts, the bill’s original cosponsors are: Keith Ellison (D-MN), Tom Marino (R-PA), Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA).