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Foreign tourists to be granted easier access to Tibet

China has pledged to slacken restrictions amid trade frictions with the US

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet (Image by Pixabay)

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet (Image by Pixabay)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Tibetan government has announced it will boost foreign tourists by fifty percent and cut down waiting times by half, Reuters reports.

Notoriously difficult to gain access to, and open to heavily-monitored tour groups only, it appears Tibet will now be easier to visit for foreign tourists as China slackens restrictions amid ongoing trade frictions with the U.S.

Reuters states the announcement was made by a local Tibetan daily newspaper and is a likely outcome of increased U.S. pressure on China.

As the two sides continue to try and reach a mutually-agreeable resolution, a Jan. 9 report from CNBC suggests there are signs of progress, including a pledge by China to purchase a significant amount of U.S. exports. The report also states the meeting between U.S. president Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping that concluded earlier this week was extended by a third day, indicating discussion was at least flowing well.

In December 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed off on The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, imploring China to grant U.S. citizens the same access rights to Tibet Chinese citizens enjoy in the U.S. The act simultaneously instructs U.S. authorities to restrict access to America for Chinese officials found impeding the travel of U.S. citizens to Tibet.

While the act is not legally enforceable, it does signify a renewed interest in Tibetan issues by the U.S., at least as far as they can be utilized as a bargaining chip with China.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, Reuters reports, and has been marked by protests from the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence activists across the world.

The Chinese government has exerted control over Tibet ever since it was “peacefully liberated by the Communist Party in 1950. Many Tibetans regard Beijing’s occupation of the region as colonization, however, as the state makes continuous attempts to buff away traditional Tibetan culture and Sinicize the people of the land.

Aside from continuing to demolish Buddhist monasteries and places of religious and cultural significance, Chinese authorities recently upped the military capabilities of local troops deployed in Tibet. Another young Tibetan man self-immolated in Sichuan province in December to protest the occupation of his home land.