Tibet is a local issue not only in Tibet, but also in Amherst, Massachusetts

Congressman Jim McGovern addressing the gathering at the event at UMass, Amherst.

Congressman Jim McGovern addressing the gathering at the event at UMass, Amherst.

On February 23, 2019, I was at UMass Amherst to participate in an event to thank Representative Jim McGovern on the successful passage of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (RATA). Acknowledging the International Campaign for Tibet’s close involvement at all stages in the legislative process on RATA, we were invited to speak at the event that saw Tibetan Americans and Tibet supporters not just from UMass, but also from Amherst and neighboring areas as well as from Boston and Connecticut.

The local paper The Daily Hampshire Gazette covered the event that included remarks by Congressman McGovern, Ms. Dhardon Sharling, an UMass research student and a former secretary in the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, and Thondup Tsering, president of the Regional Tibetan Association of Amherst. UMass SFT’s Tenzin Tseyang and Tenzin Tsedon were the moderators of the event. The Tibetan students from Amherst and Boston performed several cultural songs and dances.

Congressman Jim McGovern meeting the Tibetan Americans gathered in Amherst before the event began

Congressman Jim McGovern meeting the Tibetan Americans gathered in Amherst before the event began

In my remarks, I outlined a few areas in which RATA’s significance can be appreciated.

First, I said it gave hope to the Tibetan people. At a time when the Chinese authorities are increasing their efforts to break the spirit of the Tibetan people, RATA’s message of not isolating Tibet makes the Tibetan people understand that the international community does not forget them.

Secondly, it sends a strong message to China as RATA showed that the United States will continue to raise the Tibetan issue until the grievances of the Tibetan people are addressed and their freedom and rights restored.

Thirdly, RATA gave an opportunity to the Tibetan Americans to know that they have a role in the American political process. The Tibetan Americans really understood the power of their American identity as they lobbied their members of Congress to support the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.

Fourthly, Congressman McGovern had mentioned during the introduction process of RATA that one of the reasons he was doing so was because his Tibetan American constituents in Massachusetts were asking him. I said that this showed that supporting the Tibetan cause is in the interest of the American citizens, including those of Tibetan heritage. It is a step in the process of making the Tibetan issue a domestic issue of the United States. I do believe that this will have far-reaching consequences on the overall issue of Tibet. China will no longer be able to use the excuse of the Tibetan issue being its internal affairs to silence the international community.

In his remarks, Congressman McGovern outlined ways in which the Tibetan Americans could contribute to spreading awareness and drawing support to the Tibetan issue. I mentioned that as we move forward with a renewed sense of determination, one way the Tibetan Americans can implement the Congressman’s advice was by becoming more active. I said ICT will proudly partner with them through our programs like the Tibet Lobby Day, the Tibetan Youth Leadership Program, the Washington Internship Program for Tibetan Americans, and the Rowell Fund for Tibet.

I concluded by quoting His Holiness the Dalai Lama who said, “No matter how strong the wind of evil may blow, the flame of truth cannot be extinguished.

The event was a meaningful one. In addition to Congressman McGovern, there was a State Representative as well as officials from Amherst Town Council, which indicates that there is good interest at the local level in the issue of Tibet and Tibetan Americans.

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Bhuchung K. Tsering

Bhuchung K. Tsering joined the International Campaign for Tibet in Washington, DC in 1995 and is currently the head of the Research and Monitoring Unit. He worked as a journalist with Indian Express in New Delhi, and as an official of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala, India, before joining ICT.
He is a member of the Task Force set up by the Central Tibetan Administration to work on issues relating to the dialogue process with the Chinese leadership. He was also a member of the team led by the envoys of H.H. the Dalai Lama in the discussions that they had with the Chinese leadership between 2002 and 2010.
He has contributed articles on Tibet and related issues to Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan, Swiss and American journals. He has also testified in Congress on behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet and spoken at Universities and Think Tanks.