US restricts visas on Chinese officials over Tibet

The United States said Tuesday it was restricting visas to Chinese officials over Tibet, renewing a call for “meaningful autonomy” in the predominantly Buddhist region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was taking action against an unspecified number of officials under a new US law that presses China to let Americans visit Tibet.

“Unfortunately, Beijing has continued systematically to obstruct travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas by US diplomats and other officials, journalists and tourists, while PRC officials and other citizens enjoy far greater access to the United States,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said he was restricting visas to Chinese officials determined to be “substantially involved” in the exclusion of foreigners from Tibetan areas.

He did not name the officials and the State Department did not immediately comment on how many people would be affected.

The United States has increasingly been issuing such visa sanctions, including over China’s recent clampdown on rights in Hong Kong and its ongoing incarceration of some one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.

The Tibet action comes after a 2018 law passed by Congress that aims to pressure China over its tight restrictions in the region.

Beijing has largely barred foreign journalists from visiting Tibet since 2008, when the region saw a wave of self-immolations as protests to conditions, and has not responded to US requests to set up a consulate in Lhasa.

By contrast, the law notes that Chinese nationals face no restrictions on visiting any part of the United States.