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

Reuters  |  BEIJING 

(Reuters) - The Chinese government in said it will boost numbers and cut waiting times for foreign tourists visiting the highly restricted region, amid renewed pressure from the for greater access for U.S. officials and journalists.

U.S. signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Act in December, which seeks to press to open the region by denying U.S. entry for officials deemed responsible for restricting access to

denounced the law at the time as interference in China's internal affairs, risking "serious harm" to ties with

and the 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 will shorten the time required for foreign tourists to gain access to the region by half and boost numbers by fifty percent, Qizhala, of the regional government, said in an annual work report published by the 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.

has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since troops marched into the region in 1950 in what it terms a "peaceful liberation".

also pledged that the government in Tibet would "take a clear-cut stance in the fight against the Dalai clique", a reference to exiled the Dalai Lama.

"We must improve the monastery management and service mechanisms to defend the bottom line of Tibetan Buddhism not being manipulated by foreign forces," he said, and management of religious activities must prevent another "upsurge" of religion.

Rights groups and overseas activists say ethnic Tibetans face widespread restrictions under Chinese rule and the U.N. for Human Rights said in June conditions were "fast deteriorating".

This year marks in 1959. Supporters of Tibetan independence and of the Dalai Lama have staged protests in the past to mark the uprising's anniversary, angering

China views the Dalai Lama, Tibet's Buddhist who fled into exile in after the failed uprising, as a dangerous separatist.

The Nobel Peace laureate denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Paul Tait)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, January 11 2019. 09:54 IST