Every foreign journalist in a recent survey who applied to report in the Tibet Autonomous Region in 2022 says China’s government denied their requests. Even those who were able to visit other Tibetan areas faced restrictions.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China surveyed over 100 of its members—representing news organizations from 30 countries and regions—in December 2022 and January 2023.
According to the club’s new report, “Zero Covid, Many Controls: Covering China in 2022,” three foreign journalists who took the survey applied for permission to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region last year. All three got a rejection.
The TAR is the only region that the People’s Republic of China requires foreigners, including foreign media, to have special permission to enter.
“Access to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) remains officially restricted for foreign journalists,” the report says. “Reporters must apply to the government for special permission or join a press tour organized by China’s State Council or” Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The TAR spans roughly half of Tibet, a country in Asia’s Himalayan region that China has brutally occupied for over 60 years.
“China’s government does not want the world to see what it is doing to the Tibetan people. That’s why Chinese officials denied foreign journalists permission to report in the Tibet Autonomous Region last year,” said the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group based in Washington, DC and Europe.
“The fact that so few journalists in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club survey even made the attempt to apply to enter the TAR shows that media know the Chinese authorities will likely deny their requests. But the stories of Tibetans suffering under China’s rule must be told.
“ICT urges foreign journalists to continue their efforts to report the truth about Tibet. ICT also calls on China’s government to settle the conflict over Tibet through peaceful negotiations with the Dalai Lama’s envoys. That way, China will no longer need to hide Tibet from the global media.”
Outside the TAR
The report from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club also points to restrictions on media access to Tibetan areas outside the TAR, even though technically these are open to foreigners, including media.
The report quotes a journalist from a Western news outlet whom police prevented from reporting in a Tibetan area in Sichuan province:
“I was stopped and detained by police and local officials in a Tibetan area of Sichuan. Officials claimed because of Covid controls, foreigners were not being allowed in, even though I had three negative Covid tests in the past three days. They tried to force me onto a plane to Chengdu, but when the plane was canceled, they refused to let me go and drove me straight to Chengdu instead, a nearly 11 hour drive.”
The report says 2022 was difficult all-around for foreign correspondents in China, with the Chinese government expelling many journalists and using COVID-19 restrictions to limit the work of those who remained.
US government action
China’s government routinely denies entry to Tibet not only for foreign journalists, but diplomats and tourists as well.
In response to China’s unfair restrictions, the United States passed a law in 2018 that pressures the Chinese government to give US journalists, officials and ordinary citizens the same level of access to Tibet that Chinese citizens have to the United States.
Under the law, called the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, the State Department has banned Chinese officials from entering the US over their role in keeping Americans out of Tibet.
In addition, President Biden said during his campaign in 2020 that he would “insist that the Chinese government restore access to Tibet for US citizens, including our diplomats and journalists.”
Read the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China’s report on media freedoms in 2022.