The frontier region in southwest China has been a flash point for generations.
Beijing considers Tibet as part of its historical empire, but many Tibetans and others believe the region was illegally incorporated in 1951. As some Tibetans press for independence, China’s Communist Party has responded over the years with heavy-handed tactics against protesters, prompting the Dalai Lama in 2008 to accuse Beijing of waging “cultural genocide” against his followers.
The visa restrictions are required under a U.S. law, approved in 2018, to respond to limits on Americans from entering Tibet.
In a June 10 report, the State Department described access to the Tibet Autonomous Region as “tightly controlled,” although it noted that officials from the American Embassy in Beijing — including the ambassador — and from the consulate in Chengdu visited five times in 2019.
Requests by the American diplomats to visit two Buddhist institutes in the region were denied, however, and journalists’ applications were also regularly turned down, according to a State Department human rights report in March.
Separately, the Free Tibet activist group reported that only nine diplomatic missions and seven journalists asked China for permission to enter the autonomous region in 2018, reflecting what it described as “the futility of applying.” Of those, four diplomatic delegations and one trip by journalists were allowed in, the group concluded.