The White House has announced that President Donald Trump has signed the so-called “A Reciprocal Access” Act, which encourages US diplomats, officials and journalists to access the Chinese districts of Tibet. If one is denied, Washington will react by introducing restrictions on Chinese officials.

The Act passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives aims to impose a visa ban on Chinese officials refusing access to US citizens, government officials and journalists to the remote region of Tibet.

In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it “resolutely opposes” a new US law on Tibet, which, in its view, is an interference with China’s internal affairs.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the ministry, explained that US law “sends serious wrong signals to Tibetan separatist elements,” and threatens to worsen bilateral relations that are already hampered by tensions in trade and other issues.

All foreigners need special permission to enter Tibet, which is usually provided to tourists who are allowed to take strictly guided tours, but very rarely for foreign diplomats and journalists.

Hua Chunying commented that Tibet is open to foreign visitors, as 40,000 US visitors have shown in the region since 2015. She adds that it is “absolutely necessary and understandable” for the government to control the entry of foreigners, taking into account “local geographic and climatic peculiarities”.

The law comes at a critical moment of another tide in Tibet. Earlier this year, three Tibetans had set themselves on fire there, bringing the number of victims of this type of protest since 2009 to 155.

The law marks a new page in the US policy towards Tibet under Trump. So far, China could use its economic and military power to isolate Tibet without much resistance from the international community. With reciprocal access to Tibet, which becomes a law, Beijing will begin to feel the weight of the chosen policy. Once more this may put the issue of Tibet at the center of the international legal dialogue.