Beijing slams US legislation demanding easier access to Tibet for American journalists, tourists
- Washington has ‘grossly interfered’ in China’s domestic affairs, foreign ministry says
- Bill wins bipartisan support as it passes through US Congress and now awaits approval by President Donald Trump
Beijing on Friday rebuked the US Congress over legislation seeking greater access to Tibet, saying American lawmakers had “grossly interfered” in China’s domestic affairs.
The bill, which passed this week with bipartisan support, demands access to the region for US diplomats, journalists and tourists, and threatens to bar Chinese officials responsible for the policy from the US if the barriers are not lifted.
Foreign visitors are generally required to obtain a special permit, with the region completely closed off to outsiders at certain times of the year.
“The relevant bill … has disregarded the facts, grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, and violated the basic norms of international relations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing.
“China is firmly opposed to this and has already made solemn representations to the US.”
About 40,000 Americans had visited Tibet since 2015, including politicians, he said.
“We strongly urge the US administration to immediately take effective measures to prevent this bill from being signed into law, so as to avoid damage to China-US relations and the cooperation between the two countries in important areas,” Lu said.
The legislation now needs the signature of US President Donald Trump.
Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the bill was “about fundamental fairness”.
“Chinese citizens enjoy broad access to the United States, and I think that is terrific,” he said.
“But it is unacceptable that the same is not true for US students, journalists or diplomats going to Tibet, including our Tibetan-American constituents just trying to visit their country of origin.”
Meanwhile, the official Tibet Daily said in a lengthy commentary released online late on Thursday that the Dalai Lama had never given up promoting Tibetan independence, dismissing his intentions to seek a “middle way” of genuine autonomy.
March 2019 marks the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama fleeing Tibet into exile.
“Whether it’s the ‘middle way’ or a ‘high degree of autonomy’, the aim is to try and negate the leadership of the [Communist] party, negate the socialist system, and negate the ethnic autonomous region system,” the article said.
The Dalai Lama has tried to use hostile forces in the Western media to spread his “rumours and slander” against China to promote Tibetan independence, ignoring the freedoms and respect accorded to the people of Tibet, it said.
Beijing sent troops into Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist even since. The Dalai Lama, the highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
China routinely denounces him as a dangerous separatist, although the Dalai Lama says all he wants is genuine autonomy for his remote and mountainous homeland.
The head of the Tibetan-government-in-exile, which is based in northern India, denounced the criticism of the Dalai Lama, saying he was the solution to the Tibetan problem because the vast majority of Tibetans accepted him as their leader.
“Intimidation and fear are not the ways to govern Tibetans,” Lobsang Sangay said in the hill station of Dharamsala.
The Dalai Lama on Friday gave a lecture in Mumbai on ancient Indian knowledge, but did not directly mention current relations with Beijing.
“Violence always brings suffering,” he said, in comments streamed live on his Facebook page. “Basic human nature is more compassionate.”