By Tenzin Dharpo
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) being thanked by ICT President Matteo Mecacci after the vote. Photo- ICT
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 29: The United States bill that seeks to counter China’s discriminatory practice of restricting access into Tibet has had another success as the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act on Wednesday in Washington DC.
The bill that was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) now has 13 cosponsors with well known politicians such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joining the bandwagon.
“The unanimous support expressed today by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) once again reflects the widespread concern of the American people for the situation inside Tibet and for the lack of access for US citizens,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.
In September, the United States House of Representatives approved the house version of the bill with unanimous bipartisan backing. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill promote access to Tibet for United States officials, journalists, NGOs and citizens by restricting access for Chinese officials who deny Americans entry to Tibet.
ICT, an organization that has been a key lobbyist for the bill in capitol hill stated, “Currently, China heavily restricts Americans (as well as all foreigners) from entering Tibet—a historically independent country that China has occupied for nearly 70 years—even though Chinese citizens are free to travel throughout the US and other democratic countries.”
The US State Department earlier 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 bill which is “expected” to be taken up by the senate has to pass the floor test there to be deemed law after being signed by the President Donald Trump.