McGovern, Hultgren, Rubio, Baldwin introduce Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act in both House and Senate of the US Congress to lift restrictions on US citizens’ access to Tibet

On the eve of the first summit between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a bipartisan legislation (H.R.1872 and S.821) to promote access by Americans to Tibetan areas, which is routinely denied by Chinese authorities, has been introduced by Senator Rubio (R-FL) and Baldwin (D-WI) in the Senate and by Congressmen McGovern (D-MI) and Hultgren (R-WI) in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress on April 4, 2017.

This is the first time that the bill has been introduced simultaneously in both the House and the Senate. A similar bill was introduced in the House during the last Congress.

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “This bill is another example of the consistent support the United States Congress has for Tibet. It conveys a clear message to the Trump Administration regarding the implementation of the principles of “reciprocity” in its relations with China, aimed at promoting more access to Tibet for US citizens, including diplomats, politicians, non-governmental organizations, and journalists. While Chinese officials and citizens have unfettered and free access across the United States of America, US officials and citizens, including Tibetan-Americans, are highly restricted in traveling to Tibet. Unless restrictions on US citizens and officials are eased, then Chinese officials with oversight on Tibet policy should not be allowed into the United States.”

“For decades, restricted access to Tibet for independent observers, journalists and diplomats and international organizations has shown that the Chinese government has no credibility when it comes to assess the reality of the situation inside Tibet; why does the Chinese government not allow visitors to travel freely to Tibet if it does not have anything to hide?” added Mecacci.

The Chinese government’s restrictions on foreign access to Tibet are part of their attempt to cover up a policy of oppression, which denies basic human and civil rights to the Tibetan people. They have also imprisoned thousands of Tibetans for speaking their mind, as documented by the Congressional Executive Commission on China and human rights groups.

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.

U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Randy Hultgren (R-IL), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, introduced the bill in the House.

“America needs to stand up for human rights at home and abroad. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have stressed the importance of protecting Tibet’s human rights and their unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions, but we can and must do more,” said McGovern. “If the United States is serious about protecting human rights in Tibet, we need to do more than talk the talk – we need to walk the walk. This bill will ensure there are consequences for China’s repressive policies. I first introduced this bill in 2014 and I am proud to introduce it again today with our bipartisan co-sponsors. Now is the time for America to lead.”

“China’s harsh restrictions surrounding Tibet are well-known. It remains unacceptable for China’s officials to enjoy access throughout the United States, while our own diplomats, journalists and Tibetan-Americans are restricted from visiting Tibet,” said Hultgren, Commissioner on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “It’s time to end the double standard.”

US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the bill in the Senate.

“The Chinese government’s oppression of Tibet includes keeping it off limits to Americans, journalists and others who can shine a bright light on the human rights violations committed daily against the Tibetan people,” said Rubio, chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “We should not accept a double standard where Chinese officials can freely visit anywhere in the U.S. while they block our diplomats, journalists and Tibetan-Americans from visiting Tibet. This bipartisan bill will hold China accountable for its oppression and make it clear that if Chinese government officials want to enjoy the privilege of entering the United States, they must allow equal access to Tibet.”

“If the Chinese government stands by its ‘nothing to see here’ rhetoric about Tibet, than it should not be preventing U.S. government officials, journalists and citizens from visiting,” said Baldwin. “Access to Tibet is blocked precisely because of China’s widespread human rights violations there, including official oppression of Tibetans’ religious freedom, culture, language and autonomy. Chinese officials responsible for violations of democratic principles—and for hiding them through restricting U.S. citizen travel—should not expect to be allowed to travel freely in the United States—a country founded on those very principles.”

On April 6-7 the US-China summit will take place at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. The past three Presidents, Clinton, Bush and Obama have raised publicly the situation inside Tibet during such summits, and have called for dialogue without preconditions with the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to resolve the issue.