U.S. Sets Visa Restrictions on China Officials Over Tibet Policy
Members of the Tibet delegation arrive at the Great Hall of the People ahead of the opening of the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing, China. (Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg)

U.S. Sets Visa Restrictions on China Officials Over Tibet Policy

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The U.S. has imposed travel restrictions on Chinese officials determined to be “substantially involved” in restricting access to Tibet, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said.

“Beijing has continued systematically to obstruct travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas by U.S. 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 Tuesday, referring to the People’s Republic of China, the country’s official name.

“I am announcing visa restrictions on PRC government and Chinese Communist Party officials determined to be substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas,” Pompeo added.

In response, China said Wednesday afternoon that it would restrict visas for some U.S. personnel over their "egregious behavior” on Tibet.

“We firmly oppose the U.S. measure,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing in Beijing. “We urge the U.S. side to stop using Tibet to interfere in China’s internal affairs and stop before going further down the wrong path to prevent damage to bilateral relations.”

Neither side identified the officials who were subject to the new restrictions. Yet the moves are the latest example of the rapid erosion of U.S.-China ties as the world’s two largest economies exchange charges over who’s to blame for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. escalates criticism of the Beijing government’s crackdown in Hong Kong and its treatment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Last month, the U.S. designated four Chinese media companies as “foreign missions,” doubling down on its strategy that’s aimed at calling attention to President Xi Jinping’s strict controls over news organizations. In response, China ordered more American news outlets to declare their finances and staff.

China’s authority over Tibet has long been an irritant in U.S.-China relations, with support for the region’s autonomy and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, often being a bipartisan issue in Washington.

“Access to Tibetan areas is increasingly vital to regional stability, given the PRCs human rights abuses there, as well as Beijing’s failure to prevent environmental degradation near the headwaters of Asia’s major rivers,” Pompeo said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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