There's a women's soccer tournament coming up in Dallas, Texas, and one of the teams expecting to take part is from Tibet. But, due to reasons that aren't totally clear, they have been denied visas.
According to The Guardian, the 15 members of the Tibet women's soccer team who were denied permission to come to the U.S. were told they don't have a good reason to visit the United States. Granted, soccer isn't a hugely popular sport in America, but still...
Coach Cassie Childers said the trip was "a dream come true" for the players, who are mostly between the ages of 18 and 20. After weeks of travel and paperwork, and a cost of $3,520 -- half of the team's annual budget -- for visa applications, their requests were denied.
Childers, an American, was not happy. "They [the players] weren’t trying to immigrate,” she said. “They were trying to play soccer."
Team captain Jamyang Chotso echoed that statement, saying,
"What they said is we don’t have strong reasons to go to Dallas. But I think this is not the reason for them to reject us. [We] think the reason is they think we might run away when we reach there."
Tibet has been under the thumb of China for half a century, and the soccer team, despite carrying the name of the oppressed nation, actually lives and practices in India. The Indian government considers them to be legal residents of India, not refugees.
Chinese control of Tibet has been a sticking point at times in U.S.-China relations, and that very likely played a part in this event. President Obama angered China last year when he met with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. Trump almost created an international incident early on when he talked to the president of Taiwan on the phone. And Trump, despite all of his anti-Chinese rhetoric, can't risk upsetting the Beijing government too much due to the fact that a number of his products are made there.
That's one of the dangers of Trump's presidency. As some have pointed out, we now have a president whose foreign policy decisions may be determined by whether or not his company does business in a particular country. Despite denials, that looks like exactly what happened in the case of the travel ban order. While we don't have concrete evidence that the Tibetan soccer incident had anything to do with Trump's business interests, we also can't say that it didn't. The specter of conflict of interest hangs heavy over the Trump White House.
Even after the rejection at least some of the women say they would still like to come to the U.S. to play. Yangdan Lhamo, one of the players, even sounded a little Trump-ish, saying,
"I still want to play there, because this is our only chance to represent our country in the greatest country on Earth."
We'll never know the exact reasons why the team's visa applications were denied -- State Department officials won't comment. You can bet that if White House officials get questioned about it, their answers will have something to do with terrorism, refugees, immigration reform, etc. But the real reason may have much more to do with how much money Trump could stand to lose than anything else.