July 7 (UPI) -- In its latest reproach of China's human rights record, the U.S. State Department on Tuesday said they will deny Chinese officials entry to the United States who have restricted access of American government officials, journalists, independent observers and tourists to the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said access to the Tibetan areas was of "increasingly vital" importance to regional stability due to the People's Republic of China's human rights abuses in the area and its failures to prevent environmental degradation near Asia's major waterways there.
The visa restrictions, imposed under the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, will bar PRC and Chinese Communist Party officials entry to the United States who have been determined to be "substantially involved" in policies related to the access of foreigners to Tibetan areas, the law states.
"The United States will continue to work to advance the sustainable economic development, environmental conservation and humanitarian conditions of Tibetan communities," Pompeo said, adding that the measure was being pursued as the United States "seeks fair, transparent and reciprocal treatment from the People's Republic of China for our citizens."
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been gradually increasing over the past few years but have been drastically ratcheting up recently over the United States' condemnation of the Asian nation's human rights transgressions, particularly against its Muslim minority Uighurs in northwestern Xinjiang and Hong Kong protesters. The situation has worsened in the past week after China imposed a new national security law that has been widely condemned and which the United States has moved to punish Beijing over.
Concerning Tibet, the United States has expressed concern over China's treatment of Tibetan Buddhists, as well as other religious minorities, stating in a June report on religious freedoms that they face "severe societal discrimination" and that supporters of the Dalai Lama could be arrested under Beijing's anti-organized crime program.
The annual report states diplomatic access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region was "tightly controlled," and a U.S. official was granted access to the area in May 2019 becoming the first to do so since 2015.
According to a second U.S. report from 2019, this one on human rights practices, the PRC government "harassed or detained Tibetans as punishment for speaking to foreigners, attempting to provide information to persons abroad or communicating information regarding protests or other expressions of discontent."
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation in May in support of Tibetans in China, but it has yet to reach the Senate.