(TibetanReview.net, Jul09’20) – China said Jul 8 that it had decided to impose visa restrictions on US individuals with what it called “egregious conducts” on Tibet-related issues. The presumably tit-for-tat ban, however, does not make sense because the US ban, announced just the other day, was in response to China’s own long existing non-official but, nevertheless, strictly enforced ban on US and other foreigners, especially diplomats, journalists and individual tourists, from visiting Tibet.
The US ban was preceded by calls on Beijing to open up Tibet for US and other foreign visitors just as the US and other countries were open for Chinese visitors. It was only when China kept refusing while lying about Tibet being always open that the US announced the ban.
The US ban was announced on Jul 7 by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said Washington would restrict visas for some Chinese officials concerned with Tibet policy as mandated by the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, because Beijing obstructs travel to Tibet by US diplomats, journalists and tourists.
Rather than addressing the issue squarely, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has said, as quoted by China’s oficial Xinhua news agency Jul 8, “We urge the US side to immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs with Tibet as a pretext, and refrain from going further down the wrong path, lest it should further harm China-U.S. relations as well as exchange and cooperation between the two countries.”
The report cited Zhao as claiming that China was pursuing a policy of opening up, that “Tibet is open to all with no restriction on foreigners’ entry,” and that the region receives a large number of foreign travelers and people from various sectors every year.
However, at the same time, he has sought to justify the restrictions, saying, “I want to point out that considering the special geographical and climatic conditions in the region, it is entirely necessary and indisputable that the government takes some lawful measures to manage and protect foreign nationals in Tibet.”
It is only parts of Tibet which are open to foreign tourists and the rules mandate no independent travellers. Visitors must join groups that are strictly monitored by the Chinese government through the tour groups that organize them.
Significantly, China does not at all allow any foreign journalists, human rights groups, and diplomats to visit Tibet except on rare occasions in strictly government-managed groups that are taken on choreographed tours so that they should agree with what China says about the situation in Tibet.
In fact, many such recent visitors to Tibet have been from China-friendly countries who willingly join such propaganda groups to enjoy the junket and return the favour with pro-China reports.