Tibetans finding it increasingly difficult to get passports


Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet.


Dr. Robert Spencer, Woods Hole Research Center

Tibetans who want to travel outside of China are finding it increasingly difficult to extract passports from Chinese officials, recent reports say — another result of China's crackdown on Tibetan dissenters.

Radio Free Asia recently reported that "hardly any" Tibetans have been able to get passports since new restrictions were introduced in April 2012, forcing passport seekers to undergo much stricter vetting procedures than regular Chinese citizens.

Read more from GlobalPost: In—depth series: Tibetans in turmoil

The move was something of a bait-and-switch, notes the Washington Post: Tibetans were all told to turn in their passports, which would be replaced with electronic passports.

However, the new passports never showed up, and now many Tibetans are left passportless, and thus unable to travel.

The move likely came about as a result of China's crackdown on Tibet, following a restive year as Tibetans seeking freedom from the Chinese government continued a rash of self-immolation and protests — dramatic gestures that elicited much attention overseas.

Read more from GlobalPost: More Tibetans self-immolate

According to Free Tibet's website, which tracks self-immolation incidents, nearly a 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March of 2011, including a number of incidents since 2013.

“Since February or March of last year, there has been no issuing of new Chinese passports to Tibetans and those in the TAR were hit hard by the move," said Office of Tibet in Taiwan researcher Sonam Dorjee to RFA on the matter.

The Tibet Justice Center's website notes that asylum-seeking Tibetans are often stymied in their efforts to reach the USA (and other nations) by their lack of passports.