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China pledges easier foreign tourist access to Tibet amid U.S. pressure

BEIJING - The Chinese government in Tibet said it will boost numbers and cut waiting times for foreign tourists visiting the highly restricted region, amid renewed pressure from the United States for greater access for US officials and journalists.
US President Donald Trump signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act in December, which seeks to press China to open the region by denying US entry for officials deemed responsible for restricting access to Tibet.Beijing denounced the law at the time as interference in China's internal affairs, risking "serious harm" to ties with Washington.
China and the United States are engaged in talks to try to hammer out a deal to end a festering trade dispute that has threatened to sour the relationship across the board, including on issues such as security, influence and human rights.
The Tibetan government will shorten the time required for foreign tourists to gain access to the region by half and boost numbers by fifty percent, Qizhala, chairman of the regional government, said in an annual work report published by the official Tibet Daily newspaper on Friday.
Non-Chinese visitors must apply for a special permit to travel to remote, mountainous Tibet, which is usually granted for tourists provided they travel with approved tour companies but rarely for journalists and diplomats.
Beijing has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since Chinese Communist Party troops marched into the region in 1950 in what it terms a "peaceful liberation."
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