SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Chinese students at the University of California-San Diego are protesting against the recent announcement of the Dalai Lama as the keynote speaker at the school’s June commencement ceremony.
They contend the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader defies the university’s stated commitment to diversity and inclusion, and are using a combination of Communist Party propaganda and leftist academic arguments in an attempt to prevent him from speaking, Quartz reports.
“UCSD is a place for students to cultivate their minds and enrich their knowledge. Currently, the various actions undertaken by the university have contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality, and earnestness – the ethos upon which the university was built,” the Chinese Students and Scholars Association posted to the Chinese social media site WeChat hours after the Feb. 2 announcement.
“These actions have also dampened the academic enthusiasm of Chinese students and scholars. If the university insists on acting unilaterally and inviting the Dalai Lama to give a speech at the graduation ceremony, our association vows to take further measures to firmly resist the university’s unreasonable behavior,” the post continued. “Specific details of these measures will be outlined in our future statements.”
The issue has since spawned the hashtag #ChineseLivesMatter, and a lively discussion from Chinese students on Facebook about how the “oppressive” Dalai Lama defies the notions of “diversity” and “political correctness,” according to the news site.
“So you guys protest against Trump because he disrespects Muslims, blacks, Hispanics, LGBT … but invites this oppressor to make a public speech?” one student wrote. “The hypocrisy is appalling! How about some respect for Chinese students? Oh wait no, Chinese people are not subject to political correctness since Chinese government is evil and Chinese are brain-washed.”
“Can’t believe it,” another posted. “So is it how UCSD educate their students about bias and equality while allowing a guy supporting division to speak here?”
The UCSD Shanghai Alumni Group also sent a letter to the chancellor citing the university’s commitment to “diversity” for opposing the Dalai Lama’s visit.
“During the campus commencement, there will be over a thousand Chinese students, families, and friends celebrating this precious moment with their loved ones,” the letter read. “If Tenzin Gyatso expresses his political views under the guise of ‘spirituality and compassion,’ the Chinese segment of this community will feel extremely offended and disrespected during this special occasion.”
None of the professors in the UCSD Chinese Studies program responded to Quartz’s requests for comments, but University of California Irvine professor Jeffrey Wasserstrom said it’s clear Chinese students are picking up on tactics used by other groups like Black Lives Matter to get what they want.
“If there were an objection to the Dalai Lama speaking on campus 10 years ago, you would not have seen the objection from Chinese students being framed within the rhetoric of diversity and inclusion,” he said. “There is a borrowing of rhetorical strategies.”
Tibetan native Tsering Topgyal, a UCSD graduate now working at the University of Birmingham, said it’s not surprising that most Chinese students are in lockstep with the communist government’s perspective on Tibet, and are now using diversity as “an expedient notion to latch onto given its importance in both rhetoric and substance in the US and academia.”
The galling lack of diversity in China, however, erodes their argument, he said.
“If the Chinese students wish to exploit diversity, they would come across as more convincing if they were more committed and supportive of this principle back home,” he said. “If they are so committed to diversity, it behooves them to be more accepting of the Dalai Lama’s talk, especially since I am sure that many of the non-Chinese student community would wish to hear the Dalai Lama.”