Calls are mounting in Europe for member states of the EU to enact legislation demanding that European diplomats, journalists, and researchers be granted access to travel in Tibet, a region largely restricted to outsiders while Chinese nationals can freely travel throughout European countries, a Tibet advocacy group said in a new report on Monday.
Writing in an op-ed on Monday appearing in European media outlets and newspapers, 57 parliamentarians from 19 European countries called on their governments to pass a law barring access to Europe to Chinese officials who block foreign travel in Tibet, a formerly independent Himalayan country now ruled from Beijing.
“Government officials, journalists and tourists who seek to enter Tibetan areas are routinely denied, and the few who do get in are forced to stay on strictly controlled official tours,” the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said in a statement on Monday.
“[There], they are shown Potemkin villages that hide the truth about China’s horrific repression of the Tibetan people,” ICT said, adding that by denying unfettered access to Tibet, Beijing seeks to shut down criticism of what the rights group called “its atrocious human rights record in Tibet.”
There is now a growing awareness in Europe of the dangers of an “asymmetrical relationship with China,” building on recent statements by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that Europe’s relationship with China should be based on “trust, transparency, and reciprocity,” ICT said.
“It is now incumbent upon European governments and the European Union to insist on reciprocity in their dealings with the People’s Republic of China,” said Tsering Jampa, executive director for ICT Europe, in a statement Monday.
“This principle should not be limited to trade and investment but should also include fundamental freedoms in order to address the asymmetry of China’s authoritarian influence not only in Tibet, which has been isolated from the rest of the world for the past six decades, but also on our own societies,” Jampa said.
The privilege and right to travel
“We know that Tibet is closed to foreigners—to analysts, to members of parliament, to lawmakers, and so on,” said ICT-EU policy director Vincent Metten, speaking on Monday to RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“But the opposite is not true. Chinese officials, journalists, and so on have the privilege and right to travel and to visit Europe.”
Recent U.S. legislation denying access to the United States to Chinese officials blocking travel by Americans to Tibet could now serve as a model for European policymakers, Metten said, noting at the same time that the “institutional architecture” across the EU’s many member states is different.
“So we need to have imaginative ways for the EU to think of how they could do this. But this is their job,” Metten said.
In December 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, a law under which Chinese officials responsible for excluding U.S. citizens, including Americans of Tibetan ethnic origin, from China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), could be banned 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.
Reported by Tashi Wangchuk for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.