Tibet Act may further jeopardize China-US relations

By Ling Shengli

The US is readying a law to impose a visa ban on Chinese officials, sharpening the knives for a counterattack against China’s rules regulating entry of foreigners into the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act on November 28. The bill, which needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump before becoming a law, shows that America is again trying to interfere in China’s internal affairs on the pretext of so-called human rights issues, and influence other countries’ domestic politics through legislation.

The bill provides that the US State Department will allow Chinese diplomats to visit some parts of the US weighing to what extent China allows US diplomats to visit certain areas, including Tibet. “The Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees … a report that includes an assessment of the level of access Chinese authorities granted diplomats and other officials, journalists, and tourists from the United States to Tibetan areas” and “a list of Chinese officials who were substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies to restrict access of United States diplomats and other officials, journalists, and citizens of the United States to Tibetan areas”. If China continues to restrict Americans from entering Tibet, Chinese officials on the list will no longer be able to enter the US. Apparently, this is the typical US way of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries through legislation.

Why would the US do that? House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi once said that “if we do not speak out clearly for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights at any place in the world”. Since Trump assumed office, the impact of human rights issues on Sino-US ties has been waning. This is largely because of Trump’s policy preferences. But Washington, especially the US Congress, is still paying close attention to human rights issues and has been constantly raking it up.

Using laws to deal with international relations and other countries’ internal affairs has long been a US tradition, thanks to its incomparable strength. It is also shutting its eyes to some international laws such as the Charter of the United Nations. Such an approach shows selfishness and hegemonic designs of the US, and other nations can’t agree to it.

When it comes to human rights, Washington takes the moral high ground and tends to be judgmental for all such issues across the globe. The truth is that it is adopting double standards or even multiple standards on human rights issues based on its relations with other countries. For instance, it quit the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year for what it called the organization’s “chronic bias against Israel”.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act is another US instrument to interfere in China’s domestic affairs under the name of “human rights”. Since China-US relations are going through a tense phase, the Chinese find it hard to believe that Washington’s move is an isolated case and think that it is a US plot to take on China.

During the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, China and the US agreed to a truce on the trade conflict. The next step is implementing it in a relatively friendly atmosphere. But if the US continues to pressure Beijing, it will take away from China’s trust of the US. If the US really wants to resolve the trade conflict with China, it should not stir up more troubles.

No side would win in a Sino-US confrontation, be it cold war, hot war or trade war. The two countries are going through tough times and many sensitive issues are likely to be politicized and made to look like strategies. If they make a fuss over small issues, they run the risk of losing something bigger. Only when the two can make mutual compromise and move in the same direction, can they effectively control their differences and promote stability in ties.