Tibetans in region pleased that Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act bill clears key milestone

NORTHAMPTON — Many Tibetans in western Massachusetts are pleased that a bill prohibiting Chinese officials responsible for limiting access to Tibet from entering the United States is one step closer to becoming law.
The bipartisan Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, has passed Congress after receiving support from the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, and now awaits the signature of President Donald Trump.
“We the local people here are very excited, so happy,” said Pasang Norbu, former president of the Amherst Regional Tibetan Association, which recently merged with the Tibetan Association of Western Massachusetts to form the Regional Tibetan Association of Massachusetts.
“There are so many people who want to go back to Tibet,” he continued.
Travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese government currently create significant barriers for Americans who wish to enter Tibet, which has left the area largely closed off to journalists, government officials and citizens, including those who wish to visit family in Tibet.

Norbu has never been to Tibet himself, but hopes to visit someday and still has extended family living there. 
“There are so many things this bill represents,” Norbu said, adding that he was glad to see bipartisan support for the bill. “I’m very happy that Americans stand for justice and peace.” 
Increased access to Tibet will help to expose human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government against the Tibetan people, Norbu said. 
“People can go and see with their own eyes what is actually going on,” Norbu said, “so we don’t have to worry about whether (claims by the Chinese government are) true or false. There are so many violations going on.” 
Pema Tseyang, owner of the Glimpse of Tibet shop in Northampton, also voiced her support for the legislation.
Tseyang was born in Tibet and lived in India before moving to the United States in 1992, and still has brothers and sisters living in Tibet. Tseyang last visited her family in 2004, but said that returning to Tibet again would be a very difficult, complicated process. 
“We have to go through papers, pay a lot of money, and then time’s past… I think a lot of people can’t get in,” she said.
Tseyang also spoke on human rights abuses in Tibet, adding “People cannot just speak in Tibet… There’s no choice. They give up their life.” 
In a press release, McGovern wrote, “Our foreign policy ought to send the message that we stand for human rights. That we stand with those whose culture and religious freedom are oppressed. And that our values compel us to speak out when we see something that’s wrong.” 
He continued, “Once the bill is signed into law by the president, there will be real consequences for the Chinese officials who systematically violate the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people. If these officials want to visit the United States, they must allow reciprocal access to Tibet.” 

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