UK Lawmaker Proposes Bill For Reciprocal Access to Tibet
2019-07-24

A British lawmaker submitted a bill to the House of Commons this week that would bar entry to the UK for any Chinese officials found to block freedom of travel to Tibet by British citizens.

The bill submitted by Conservative Party MP Tim Loughton on Tuesday mirrors a similar bill now passed into law in the U.S., and requires that a report be made to Parliament each year, listing instances where British politicians, diplomats, and other travelers have been denied entry to Tibet.

“My Bill would emulate in the UK what the US has done,” Loughton, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet, said on a video clip posted on Facebook on Tuesday, citing concerns over what he called China’s “horrendous human rights abuses” in the Himalayan region.

“To say to China: You need to open up, we need to expose these human rights abuses. You need to treat Tibetans fairly around the world and within China itself, and if you don’t, don’t expect the people responsible for that to be able to come to the UK,” he said.

“It may seem like a remote issue, but it’s an important principle for human rights of minorities throughout the world,” Loughton said. “And the Tibetans have suffered for far too long.”

Details on when Loughton’s bill will come up for debate in the Parliament were not immediately available.

‘A positive move’

Speaking on Wednesday to RFA’s Tibetan Service, London-based Free Tibet campaign advocacy manager John Jones welcomed the submission of Loughton’s bill to the UK Parliament.

“We think it is a positive move. We were excited when the Reciprocal Access bill had success in the U.S., and we thought it was good for other countries to replicate that, to send a message to the Chinese government,” Jones said.

“If they are going to impose travel restrictions on people from the UK to Tibet, then those people imposing the restrictions need to be held accountable themselves.”

In a move pushing for greater U.S. access to Tibet, now largely closed by China to American diplomats and journalists, President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2018 signed into law a bill denying visas to Chinese officials responsible for blocking entry to the Beijing-ruled Himalayan region.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 requires the U.S. Secretary of State to identify Chinese officials responsible for excluding U.S. citizens, including Americans of Tibetan ethnic origin, from China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and then ban them from entering the United States.

The law also requires the State Department to provide to the Congress each year a list of U.S. citizens blocked from entry to Tibet.

‘Wrong signals’

Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying slammed Trump’s signing of the bill into law, saying the new law sends “seriously wrong signals” of support to what she called forces working to separate Tibet from Chinese rule.

“If the United States implements this law, it will cause serious harm to China-U.S. relations and to the cooperation in important areas between the two countries,” she said.

A formerly independent nation, Tibet was taken over and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, following which Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India.

Chinese authorities now maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identities, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.