Students at the University of California, San Diego are
protesting an upcoming visit by the Dalai Lama –
claiming the Tibetan leader is “oppressive”.
Chinese students are leading objections to the event,
which will see the Dalai Lama give a commencement
speech on graduation day.
They have claimed that his presence is offensive
because of his campaign to make Tibet more
independent – contrary to the Communist government’s
position that Tibet is a region of China under their control.
Arguments over Tibetan independence have raged for
decades – but this dispute is remarkable because
activists are conducting it through the language of
As noted by Quartz, the Chinese student association
framed their complaints as an example of cultural oppression
and a problem of equality.
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A statement accused university leaders of having
“contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality,
and earnestness—the ethos upon which the university
One student posting on Facebook said: “So you guys
protest against Trump because he disrespects Muslims,
blacks, Hispanics, LGBT.., but invites this oppresser
[sic] to make a public speech?? The hypocrisy is
Likewise, an alumni group based in Shanghai said UCSD
will be breaching its ethos of “diversity” and will leave
them “extremely offended and disrespected” if the Dalai
Lama’s speech dips into the political.
Chinese officials are known to be extraordinarily hostile
to any groups who get close to the Dalai Lama, and do
their best to punish governments who engage with the
exiled Tibetan regime.
They consider the Dalai Lama a threat to stability in
China, akin to a terrorist who wants to split the country.
This is despite his stated aim being increased autonomy –
rather than outright independence – for Tibet, which he
fled in 1959.
His insistence on peaceful protest and non-violent
resistance won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. It is
hard to see who he is oppressing by touring the world,
giving speeches and promoting peaceful opposition to
Questions have been raised about whether the Chinese
government is directly involved in lobbying against the
A statement by the Chinese Students and Scholars
Association originally said it was seeking support from
the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, but later
denied that claim.
Government officials are certainly not above getting
involved in campus politics.
At the University of Durham in northern England, the
Chinese Embassy in London tried to stop a Chinese-
born activist and beauty queen speaking in a debate.
Anastasia Lin, a Miss World Canada winner, was asked
to speak at the Durham Union Society on whether China
was a “threat to the West”
But the students organizing the debate received angry
calls from embassy officials, claiming that if Lin spoke it
could damage UK-China relations, according to a BuzzFeed report.
The students ignored them and went ahead with the
debate anyway (Lin’s side lost).
But the incident underlines that China is prepared to
take advantage of a newly censorious atmosphere on
campus – and its supporters are happy to use the
posture of SJWs to get their way.