DHARAMSHALA, JAN. 12: The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act’s two lead sponsors in Congress have challenged the Chinese government to show through concrete action that it is opening up Tibet to the outside world.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were reacting to reports in Chinese state media from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa that China was changing its policy regarding access to Tibet, a historically independent country that China has occupied for 70 years.
A China Daily report on Jan. 10, 2019 says, “Overseas tourists will find it easier and faster to apply for a travel permit to Tibet this year as the regional government makes efforts to boost tourism.”
In response, Sen. Rubio tweeted on Jan.11, 2019: “Seems the new Reciprocal Access to #Tibet law has gotten the attention of the Chinese Gov’t. Time will tell if they open up Tibet & stop brutally repressing the Tibetan people.”
Rubio also had a message for the Trump Administration. His tweet said, “In the meantime, @StateDept should swiftly implement the bill.”
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, of which Rep. McGovern is a co-Chair, said in a tweet on Jan.11, 2019, “The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, led by @RepMcGovern and former @RepHultgren and approved last Congress, has clearly caught China’s attention: After new US law China plans to issue faster permits for foreigners to visit Tibet.”
On Dec. 19, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (RATA), which requires the State Department to deny or revoke US visas for Chinese officials who are responsible for keeping American journalists, diplomats and ordinary citizens out of Tibet.
The China Daily report quotes a Chinese government official in Lhasa saying, “The Tibet autonomous region plans to cut the time for issuing travel permits to overseas tourists by half in 2019.”
“Since RATA began making its way through Congress, Chinese officials have made one misleading statement about this legislation after another out of fear of Americans’ enduring support for the Tibetan people. Today’s announcement should be viewed no differently,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.
Mecacci added, “The US government—and all US citizens who care about human rights and democracy—must continue to pressure the Chinese government to end its isolation of Tibet and restore basic freedoms to Tibetans.”