China ‘systematically impeded’ travel in Tibet: US report

Dharamsala:- The Chinese government “systematically impeded” travel to Tibetan areas by US diplomats, journalists and tourists in 2021, the State Department said in a new report mandated by a law that pushes for American access to Tibet.

“This report shows how far China is going to hide the truth about its horrific human rights violations in Tibet,” said Franz Matzner, government relations director of the International Campaign for Tibet, on Friday.

“Facts are stubborn things, though, and the global community must not let the People’s Republic of China conceal its cruelty and agenda of domination against the Tibetan people.”

The State Department submitted the report to Congress on March 16. It is the fourth annual report on access to Tibet under the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, a law that Congress passed in 2018 to confront China’s unfair policy of denying Americans entry to Tibet even though Chinese citizens are free to travel throughout the US.

As a result of the law’s implementation, the State Department has denied entry to the US by the Chinese officials responsible for keeping Americans out of Tibet.

The new report says China maintained strong restrictions on access last year, sometimes using Covid-19 as a pretext.

“The PRC authorities systematically impeded travel to the TAR and to many Tibetan areas outside the TAR for US diplomats and officials, journalists, and tourists in 2021,” the report says, referring to the Tibet Autonomous Region, which spans about half of Tibet.

The TAR is the only area under Chinese rule that foreign citizens must receive special permission to enter, although such permission is rarely granted.

The report arrives just weeks after the watchdog group Freedom House declared Tibet the least-free country on the earth in a tie with South Sudan and Syria.

The Chinese government has illegally occupied Tibet for over 60 years.

“The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act was designed to end China’s practice of restricting access to the ‘Land of Snows’,” Matzner added.

“If China remains unwilling to let the world see what it’s doing in Tibet, the State Department should consider naming names in future reports so that everyone can see who is responsible for these policies.”

Among the findings in this report are: Access to the Tibetan population by diplomats and other officials did not improve in 2021 compared to 2020.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the US Embassy in Beijing estimates the number of US citizens who visited the TAR decreased substantially in 2021.

In 2021, the TAR continued to be the only area of China that authorities required foreign diplomats and officials to request permission to visit.

In Tibetan areas outside the TAR, Chinese authorities routinely denied requests for meetings with government, religious and civil society leaders.

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.