WASHINGTON: A bipartisan group of lawmakers have urged US President Donald Trump to raise the issue of human rights violations in China, in particular, those related to Tibet when he meets his Chinese counterpart this week.
Simultaneously, influential US lawmakers have introduced legislations in both House of Representative and the Senate to promote access by Americans to Tibetan areas, which is routinely denied by Chinese authorities.
The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Marco Rubio and Tammy Baldwin, while in the House of Representative it was introduced by Congressmen Jim McGovern and Randy Hultgren. Trump will host his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida from April 6 to 7.
"The crackdown on civil society and deterioration of rule of law in China in the past few years appears to signal a systematic effort by Chinese Communist Party leadership to tighten its controls on free expression and undermine the will of its own people," Senator Ben Cardin and Rubio wrote in a joint letter to the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
They said the US should not simply stand idly by as these universal rights are abrogated and the Chinese people suffer the consequences. A failure of US leadership on these issues is not a good message for the United States to send to China, its allies in the region, and the world, they said.
"We hope you will urge China to do more to improve the cultural and spiritual plight of Tibetans, not just their economic status...Just like in Tibet, China appears unwilling to comply with its international human rights commitments in Xinjiang, where Uighurs continue to report systemic torture, and restrictions on religious freedom," they said.
In a statement, McGovern said America needs to stand up for human rights at home and abroad. "If the US is serious about protecting human rights in Tibet, we need to do more than talk the talk – we need to walk the walk. This bill will ensure there are consequences for China's repressive policies," McGovern said.
"The Chinese government's oppression of Tibet includes keeping it off limits to Americans, journalists and others who can shine a bright light on the human rights violations committed daily against the Tibetan people," said Rubio, chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
"We should not accept a double standard where Chinese officials can freely visit anywhere in the US while they block our diplomats, journalists and Tibetan-Americans from visiting Tibet," he said, adding that the bipartisan bill will hold China accountable for its oppression and make it clear that if Chinese officials want to enjoy the privilege of entering the US, they must allow equal access to Tibet.
Welcoming the Congressional legislation, Matteo Mecacci, president of International Campaign for Tibet, said this bill is another example of the consistent support the US Congress has for Tibet.