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US sets visa restrictions on China officials over Tibet policy

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks the press at the State Department in Washington, DC, on May 20, 2020. Pompeo said the U.S. is imposing vis arestrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

The U.S. has imposed travel restrictions on Chinese officials determined to be “substantially involved” in restricting access to Tibet, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said.

“Beijing has continued systematically to obstruct travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas by U.S. diplomats and other officials, journalists and tourists, while PRC officials and other citizens enjoy far greater access to the United States,” Pompeo said in a statement Tuesday, referring to the People’s Republic of China, the country’s official name.

“I am announcing visa restrictions on PRC government and Chinese Communist Party officials determined to be substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas,” Pompeo added

The statement didn’t identify the officials who were subject to the new restrictions. Yet the move is the latest example of the rapid erosion of U.S.-China ties as the world’s two largest economies exchange charges over who is to blame for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. escalates criticism of the Beijing government’s crackdown in Hong Kong and its treatment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Last month, the U.S. designated four Chinese media companies as “foreign missions,” doubling down on its strategy aimed at calling attention to President Xi Jinping’s strict controls over news organizations. In response, China ordered more American news outlets to declare their finances and staff.

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China’s authority over Tibet has long been an irritant in U.S.-China relations, with support for the region’s autonomy and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, often being a bipartisan issue in Washington.

“Access to Tibetan areas is increasingly vital to regional stability, given the PRCs human rights abuses there, as well as Beijing’s failure to prevent environmental degradation near the headwaters of Asia’s major rivers,” Pompeo said.

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© 2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.