A tour of Tibetan areas given recently to foreign diplomats by authorities in western China fell short of showing a true picture of conditions faced by Tibetans living under Beijing’s rule, an advocacy group said this week.
The June 17-18 tour organized by the foreign affairs department of China’s Sichuan province focused mainly on visits to scenic areas, tourist centers, and a school for the study of traditional art, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said on June 23.
“Tourism and related facilities are the least of the problems that the Tibetan people face under Chinese rule,” ICT said.
“Freedom of religion or belief is often violated in Tibet, and restrictions to access to the region are also in place,’” the rights group said, quoting a 2018 statement former EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini to the European Parliament.
Tightly restricted and controlled tours by handpicked government delegations are staged by Chinese authorities “as an integral part of [China’s] global strategy to hide the realities of what is happening in Tibet today,” ICT said.
“ICT calls on members of such delegations from other countries to be mindful of their visits possibly being used for propagandistic means, and to be ready to counter any such state media portrayals, also in public.”
'A certain narrative'
“It was quite a rigorous program, but we did also speak with some local people,”a European diplomat, told RFA in an interview, describing the tour joined by 21 diplomats from Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States.
“And obviously, the Chinese side had a certain narrative that they wanted to portray,” the diplomat said, adding that if tour members saw anything that caused them concern, they raised their concerns immediately with their Chinese hosts.
“Obviously, the Chinese side would prefer that we not talk about these kinds of issues, but we do,” said the envoy.
Calls are mounting in Europe for member states of the EU to enact legislation demanding that European diplomats, journalists, and researchers be granted unrestricted access to travel in Tibet, a region largely barred to outsiders while Chinese nationals can freely travel throughout European countries.
Writing in an op-ed appearing this month 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.
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. Written in English by Richard Finney.