Reciprocal access bill introduced to parliament

Tim Loughton MP
Tim Loughton MP
Tim Loughton MP
24th July 2019

MP Tim Loughton seeks to emulate the success of the USA's Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act

The British Conservative Member of Parliament Tim Loughton has introduced a bill to counter restrictions on access to Tibet on British nationals.

The Tibet Reciprocal Access Bill seeks to emulate the successful US Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (RATA), which was passed in December 2018.

Like the RATA, Loughton’s proposal, if it enters into British law, would require annual reporting on restrictions imposed on British nationals who try to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), be they citizens, journalists or diplomats. In response, it would identify the officials responsible for these restrictions and deny them access to the UK.

The Chinese government has imposed tight restrictions on access to TAR, with diplomats, United Nations experts, human rights researchers and journalists denied unaccompanied, and in many cases, any access. The United Kingdom Ambassador in Beijing has been unable to visit the TAR since 2017.

In his presentation of the bill, Loughton also highlighted the effects that the restrictions have on Tibetan refugees, who are unable to enter the TAR to visit their families.

In a video to accompany the presentation of the bill, Loughton said: "We need people to be able to go and expose some of the horrendous human rights abuses in Tibet". He added that the law would “say to China – you need to open up, we need to expose these human rights abuses, you need to treat Tibetans fairly.”

The first stage of the bill took place at the House of Commons on 23 July with the first reading, in which Loughton outlined the contents of the bill.

The next stage of the bill’s progression through parliament, the second reading, is yet to be scheduled. After a third reading, including a debate, the House of Commons will vote on the bill and, should it be successful, pass it to the House of Lords.

Loughton, the Member of Parliament for East Worthing and Shoreham since 1997, is a staunch supporter of Tibet. He is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, a group of MPs from across the political spectrum who work to raise Tibet in parliament. Loughton was among the MPs who greeted the Sikyong, the elected leader of the Tibetan government in exile, when he visited the UK in June.

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In late April, Wangchen, a 20 year old from eastern Tibet, gathered with friends to commemorate the Panchen Lama’s 30th birthday. The group called for the release of the Panchen Lama, who was detained as a boy in 1995 and has been missing ever since. They also called for the Panchen Lama and the exiled Dalai Lama to one day be reunited in Tibet. For this peaceful act, Wangchen was arrested. When his aunt, Dolkar, shared the news of Wangchen’s arrest, she too was charged.