Tibetans on Thursday welcomed US President Donald Trump’s move of signing into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 which will impose a visa ban on Chinese officials who deny US citizens, government officials and journalists access to Tibet.

The new law will require the Department of State to report to the Congress annually regarding the level of access Chinese authorities granted US diplomats, journalists, and tourists to Tibetan areas in China.

Welcoming the historic legislation, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) President Lobsang Sangay said the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Law will not only make the perpetrators of human rights violations accountable.

But also bolster institutional and diplomatic engagement on Tibet.

“Again I thank the US Congress for passing the landmark bill and International Campaign of Tibet and everyone who contributed to making this a reality.

This is a very courageous step and sends the right message of hope and justice to Tibetans in Tibet,” he said.

“On behalf of six million Tibetans I extend profound appreciation to the President for signing the bill into law,” he added.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill) and in the Senate by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc).

On 25 July this year, the bill was approved unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee and was passed by the entire House two months later.

On 28 November, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the bill and it passed the full Senate on 11 December.

Under the new law, the State Department shall report to Congress annually, identifying individuals who were blocked from US entry during the preceding year and a list of Chinese officials who were substantially involved in imposing restrictions.

“This is truly a turning point for Americans, Tibetans and all who care about equality, justice and human rights,” said Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

“By passing this impactful and innovative law, the US has blazed a path for other countries to follow and let the Chinese government know that it will face real consequences for its discrimination against the Tibetan people,” he added.

It is worthwhile to mention here that despite many attempts, American diplomats have only had limited access to Tibet and almost no Beijing-based foreign journalists have been able to travel to Tibet to cover the conditions there, including the self-immolations.

Since 2014, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) in coordination with Tibetan-American associations and Tibet support groups has led the effort to approve the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.

Several thousand ICT members, Tibetan community members and American friends have personally contacted their members of Congress to ask them to support the bill.