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Access to Tibet more difficult than ever: US State Department report

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By Tsering Dhundup

DHARAMSHALA, June 11: A new United States State Department report highlighted the extreme measures taken by Chinese security forces to intimidate, monitor, and harass Americans in Tibet. The report reveals that many diplomats, officials, journalists, and tourists were barred from entering the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which includes the U-Tsang and western Kham province of traditional Tibet. 

This sixth annual State Department report on access to Tibet notes that while COVID-era travel restrictions eased in other parts of China, regulations impeding travel to Tibet persist. American officials faced significant barriers, with three requests for official travel to the TAR in 2023 all denied.

Diplomatic and official travel to regions of Tibet outside the TAR faced fewer formal restrictions, but PRC officials employed surveillance tactics to intimidate and restrict travel. The closure of the American consulate in Chengdu further limited access, with responsibilities shifted to the embassy in Beijing, 800 miles away.

Key findings from the report include the inability of U.S. mission personnel to conduct any American Citizen Services visits to the TAR in 2023, with no consular officer visiting the region since 2019. Access for foreign journalists remained restricted, as the PRC government suppressed reporting by intimidating and preventing interaction with local citizens, and controlled information through group tours for journalists. 

The report also reveals that Tibetan Americans faced stricter screening processes for PRC visas and reported frequent harassment by security officials in Tibetan areas, including being required to report to local offices, undergoing interrogation, receiving threats, and being forced to download tracking software on their phones. Some Tibetan Americans in the U.S. self-censored their behaviour due to fears of retribution against their families in Tibet or losing future access to the region.

The annual report is prepared under Section 4 of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, enacted December 19, 2018, requires the Department of State to provide a report to Congress, within 90 days of enactment and annually thereafter for five years, regarding the level of access People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorities granted to U.S. diplomats and officials, journalists, and tourists to the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and other occupied Tibetan areas in China.

Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (RATA) seeks to address the difficulties in access to the isolated and oppressed region for American diplomats, NGO workers, journalists, and all citizens whom Chinese authorities prevent from travelling freely. The Act makes it possible to deny U.S. entry to Chinese officials who are involved in policies that ultimately prohibit American citizens from access to Tibet.

The US State Department announced in 2020 that Chinese government officials of the CCP responsible for keeping American citizens out of Tibet will be denied entry to the US under the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (RATA). Then-Secretary Mike Pompeo stated that the department had restricted visas for the Chinese authorities “substantially involved” in devising policies that keep Americans out of Tibet.

2 Responses

  1. Most of these laws are tooth less and do not do much unfortunately even though they look and sound fierce , lot of thunders and won’t rain much in reality

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