By Tenzin Dharpo
The House Judiciary Committee meets on July 25, 2018, to markup the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act. Photo: ICT
DHARAMSHALA, July 26: The bill that promotes access to Tibet for U.S. officials, journalists, and average citizens was approved by the United States House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in Washington DC with unanimous bipartisan backing.
The bill H.R. 4851, called the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act was first introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) in June 2014. The legislature now has more than 50 co-sponsors in the House. A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rubio (R. – Fl.) and Sen. Baldwin (D. Wis.), and now has 8 co-sponsors, sources said.
Many US Representatives chimed in to support the bill. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the committee said, “Moving this bill is the right thing to do. It is time that Congress take a stand with regard to access by foreign nationals to the Tibetan regions.”
Fellow Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) who was a part of delegation that visited the Tibetan exile seat here in Dharamshala in May 2017 said “If Chinese officials, journalists and other citizens are able to travel freely in this country, it’s only fair that their American counterparts are able to do the same.”
Tibet advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) President Matteo Meccaci said, “Today’s unanimous approval is an important first step that confirms the strong bipartisan support for the Tibetan people in the US Congress. This vote sends a strong message to the Chinese government, warning them that restricted access to Tibet will not be tolerated, and that access to Tibet is a strategic interest of the United States. We will continue to work with the House of Representatives and the Senate for the swift approval of this bill.”
In the face of China’s extreme travel ban to occupied Tibet, the bill would ban access into US for Chinese officials responsible for discriminating against Americans who try to enter Tibet.
The US State Department reported that the Chinese government denied more than 10 requests for United States diplomatic access to the Tibet Autonomous Region between May 2011 and December 2012. Human Rights Watch has said that gaining access to Tibet is harder than getting access into North Korea.
The legislature now has to pass the floor test in the US House of Representatives and be signed by the President of the United States to be deemed a constitutional law.