(TibetanReview.net, Mar18’22) – Foreign diplomats, journalists and tourists were “systematically” denied access to the Tibetan areas of the People’s Republic of China over the past year, sometimes using Covid-19 restrictions as a pretext, the US State Department has said in a new report Mar 16 mandated by a law that pushes for US access to Tibet. China has rejected the report but insisted visitors to Tibet must abide by Chinese laws, follow “regulations” and “procedure”.
The obstacles, the report said, included harassment of US journalists, the stonewalling of diplomats’ engagements with locals in Tibetan areas outside Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and the refusal by the Chinese government to greenlight any visits to Tibet by the US chargé d’affaires at its Beijing embassy.
In one incident, a US diplomat reported being blocked from boarding a plane during a personal trip to a Tibetan prefecture outside TAR. Another was prevented from accessing a prefecture on a cycling tour.
“[China’s] security forces used conspicuous monitoring to intimidate US diplomats and officials including while on personal travel to Tibetan areas, followed them, prevented them from meeting or speaking with local contacts, harassed them, and restricted their movement in these areas,” the report said.
This is the fourth annual State Department report on the subject submitted to the Congress under the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, a law that Congress passed in 2018. The law seeks to set right China’s unfair policy of denying Americans entry to Tibet even though Chinese citizens are free to travel throughout the United States.
As a result of the law’s implementation, the State Department has denied entry to the US by Chinese officials responsible for keeping Americans out of Tibet, said Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet Mar 18.
The TAR, which makes up the western half of Tibet, is the only area under Chinese rule that foreign citizens must receive special permission to enter, with such permission rarely granted. Non-Chinese foreign tourists could visit it only in groups as parts of organized tours.
Asked about the report, Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, has maintained that the State Department’s accusations “disregard the facts and are fraught with bias”.
China would continue to welcome foreigners to Tibet for travel and business, the scmp.com Mar 18 quoted Liu as saying, “but the precondition is that they must abide by the Chinese laws and relevant regulations and go through necessary procedures”.
The report cited the US State Department as saying the Chinese government had cited US sanctions as well as Washington’s appointment of officials to specific Tibet-related roles in its decision not to allow any US embassy visits to the region in recent years.
None of the four known applications by foreign journalists to visit Tibet over the past year had been approved, according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China’s annual report released earlier this year.
However, the Chinese government did organise a number of invite-only tours for journalists to Tibet, including one in May for international outlets to cover commemorative activities marking 70 years since the “peaceful liberation of Tibet”, the scmp.com report noted.