(TibetanReview.net, Jan18’20) – The Trump administration is already a month behind schedule for presenting its first report on the implementation of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act which became law 13 months ago, noted a scmp.com report Jan 18. Under the act the Trump administration is required to block any Chinese official who was involved in restricting access to Tibet for US citizens, especially diplomats and the media, from stepping foot on American soil.
Also, the administration was required – one year after the bill’s enactment on Dec 19, 2018 – to provide the US Congress with a report that included a list of the individuals barred from entering the US or stripped of their visas, the report noted.
The report cited three congressional sources as saying lawmakers were still waiting for the report. It added that bipartisan frustration was growing in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Given the Trump administration’s “extremely lax” approach to the “letter of the law”, the report continued, pressure from Congress on the US State Department to produce the Tibet report is happening “on a bicameral and bipartisan basis”.
The report noted that a State Department report last March found that the Chinese government had “systematically impeded travel” for US diplomats, journalists and tourists in 2018, denying five of nine official travel applications from the US diplomatic mission in China – including a request by US Ambassador Terry Branstad.
While it is not unprecedented for the executive branch to miss reporting deadlines mandated by Congress, this delay follows numerous instances of the Trump administration holding off on action pertaining to human rights in China for fear of derailing the US-China trade negotiations, the report noted.
In this connection the report pointed out that over the past year, the Trump administration had postponed or cancelled speeches critical of Beijing’s human rights record by senior officials, including one by Vice-President Mike Pence, and delayed a ready-to-go sanctions package against Chinese officials over Beijing’s mass internment of Uygurs and other largely Muslim ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang.
“Technically [missing a legislatively mandated deadline] is breaking the law, but there’s no penalty to it,” Chris Lu, a former lawyer with the House oversight committee who later managed Barack Obama’s cabinet, was quoted as saying. He has added that agencies often miss deadlines, given the sheer number of reporting requirements that Congress places on the executive branch.
However, publishing a list of Chinese officials denied – or stripped of – US visas just as a high-level trade delegation led by Liu He was in Washington to sign the trade deal would be a source of certain embarrassment for Beijing, which has fumed at previous efforts by Washington to restrict its officials’ travels to the US, the report noted.
Other possible reasons cited for the delay in a report include the likelihood of the State Department being unable to identify officials responsible for restricting access to Tibet, in which case the report will be without a list.