Saturday, 1 June 2013

Lhadon: Beijing's New Allies in Its War on Tibet

...they(Confucius Institutes) are now firmly established on over 400 campuses worldwide and the Chinese government aims to reach 500 by 2020.
With China's influence growing on so many university campuses around the world, how long can Chinese government pressure be held at bay in these institutions? If university officials risk provoking Beijing and host the Dalai Lama, what happens afterwards, when the spotlight goes away?
One telling scenario occurred at the University of Calgary, where administrators went ahead with plans to confer an honorary degree on the Dalai Lama in 2009, only to discover later that the school had been removed from the list of accredited universities in China. At that time, a spokesperson for the University of Calgary publicly stated: "We have offended our Chinese partners by the very fact of bringing in the Dalai Lama, and we have work to resolve that issue." In April 2011, the university was re-accredited after what was described as "great relationship building" by the new President with the Chinese consulate.
Of course, it's not only academia on which the Chinese authorities are exerting pressure; it's everyone, everywhere. Most recently, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was targeted by Chinese authorities following his meeting with the Dalai Lama last year. Already forced to cancel a scheduled visit to China in April when it was made clear that he would not be allowed to meet with senior Chinese leaders, Cameron is now being pushed to apologize for the meeting .
Wielding this powerful combination of rewards, threats and punishment, the Chinese government is becoming more and more capable of bending the world to its will on Tibet. This disturbing trend makes one worry about the future of the Tibetan struggle.
For more than two decades, His Holiness has enjoyed tremendous global support. Many of us take it for granted that this will always be the case, that most doors will always be open to him. But Chinese leaders have been working relentlessly to close those doors and roll back support for Tibet.
It's clear we need to fight back. But how? What strength do we possess that can help us protect the political influence and access that the Dalai Lama has built over the decades?
The answer lies where it always has -- with the grassroots -- and the incident at the University of Sydney shows us the way.
In spite of all the time, effort and money the Chinese government has spent trying to forward its political objectives abroad, the Sydney incident shows us that Beijing is vulnerable in the face of mobilized grassroots power -- citizens who speak out and take action to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.
The University of Sydney has a Confucius Institute, a China Studies Center and a vice chancellor who has secured millions of dollars in Chinese government support and is clearly interested in strengthening this lucrative relationship. But all of these forces combined were not enough to stop the power of the popular grassroots opinion once the issue of the Dalai Lama's exclusion was publicized...

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