North America has long been a hotbed for Xinjiang separatists and “pro-Tibet independence” groups.
A slew of recent incidents involving these separatists and Chinese students who are fighting for the united motherland have attracted media and public attention.
In February, Chinese students at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) launched an online petition questioning the suitability of Chemi Lhamo, a Canadian of Tibetan ethnicity, to run for president of the student union since her social media posts showed her pro-Tibet independence stance.
Meanwhile, a group of Chinese students at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario protested against a speech given by Rukiye Turdush, a Canadian citizen originally from Xinjiang, whose Twitter account proclaims her to be an “enemy of China,” and who has attacked the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang.
These incidents have sparked debate among Chinese netizens over whether the universities in Canada have become bases for Tibet independence groups and Xinjiang separatists.
Feeling being fooled
Talking about Lhamo’s election as president of the student union, some Chinese overseas students at UTSC who were reached by the Global Times said that they were “still very angry.”
The day after he learned that she was president-elect on February 8, a freshman at UTSC, who prefers to be referred to as John, not his Chinese name in consideration of the current strained China-Canada ties, called on Chinese overseas students to stage a protest and impeach Lhamo in an online post.
“It makes me feel bad to see a pro-Tibet independence activist acting so arrogantly. On the one hand, they tried to draw Chinese overseas students to their side to lobby them to vote for her but on the other hand, they fully promoted Tibetan independence, including making various separatist remarks and not taking us seriously,” John told the Global Times.
In the four days after the election results were released, more than 9,000 people had signed a petition on change.org protesting against Lhamo’s qualification to be the student union president.
The petition titled “We don’t want such person to be the student union president,” was launched by a Chinese student going by Kennedy L on February 8, who said Lhamo has “too much political involvement” with a Tibet-independence group.
According to an introduction on the “Free Tibet” Twitter account, the organization is campaigning for “an end to the Chinese occupation.”
Photos posted on her Instagram account showed that Lhamo had uploaded many photos of herself taken with people from the “Free Tibet” campaign and with the group’s flag.
Zhi Bo, studying statistics at UTSC, told the Global Times that there are many Chinese overseas students and students of Chinese origin at the campus, and Lhamo uses her identity as a Chinese to win votes from these students.
But many people who voted for her did not know she supported Tibetan independence, Zhi said. “She used our feelings for our compatriots but she never regarded us as her compatriots. They did nothing to benefit the Tibetan students except stir up separatism.”