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House Passes Bill Denying Visas To Chinese Officials Restricting Access To Tibet

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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act that seeks to hold China accountable for its human rights violations in Tibet.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., was passed by a unanimous voice vote.

"Today is a great day for human rights," said McGovern on the House Floor Tuesday night, during passage of the bill. "If China wants its citizens and officials to continue to travel freely in the U.S., then Americans - including Tibetan Americans - must be able to travel freely in China, including Tibet, beginning now."

The bill promotes access to Tibet for American officials, journalists, NGOs and citizens. Under the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, the United States will not issue visas to Chinese officials who deny Americans entry to Tibet.

Chinese authorities restrict access to Tibet for foreign visitors, including preventing journalists from reporting on its human rights abuses, which include religious persecution, torture, false imprisonment and extra-judicial killings.

On the rare occasions when U.S. citizens are allowed into Tibet, they can only travel under the constant monitoring of Chinese authorities.

Since 1950, Tibetans have resisted the rule of the People's Republic of China.

Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, said the passage of the Bill is "a strong statement by the United States that puts pressure on the Chinese government to open up Tibet to the outside world and shows that their propaganda is hollow."

The bill now proceeds to the Senate and must pass there to become law.

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