Chinese students object to Dalai Lama’s graduation speech because it violates tolerance and diversity

February 16, 2017 • 1:30 pm

When a tactic proves politically successful for one group, others often adopt it.  Students all over the US and UK, for instance, have taken a page from the extremist Muslim playbook, equating “I’m offended” with “I have been injured”—a justification for censoring others. And in Berkeley, the anarchists go further, threatening violence when they’re offended, like those Muslims who went on a rampage after the Danish cartoons were published.

Now it’s happened at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), where a group of mainland Chinese students have taken a tactic from college Leftists. It’s all detailed in an article at Quartz: “Chinese students in the US are using ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity’ to oppose a Dalai Lama graduation speech.

What happened is that UCSD invited the Dalai Lama, a much beloved figure but to some, including the late Christopher Hitchens, a flawed one. All in all, though, I see him as fairly innocuous—one of those religious leaders who doesn’t do much damage. I do take issue with those who claim he’s pro-science—even though he wrote a book saying Buddhism was compatible with science—as he also accepts reincarnation and karma: numinous and unscientific beliefs.

But the mainland Chinese see things differently. What happened to Tibet, of course, was that the People’s Republic of China annexed that land in 1951, and, after an unsuccessful revolt, the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he resides with his followers. Since then, the Chinese have waged a relentless campaign to de-Tibetanize the country, pouring Han Chinese settlers into it, and engaging in human rights violations, including, according to an Amnesty International report, executions, tortures, extrajudicial killings. sterilization, and forced abortions, as well as the closing of monasteries. When I visited Tibet about 14 years ago, the monks all beseeched me on the sly for pictures of the Dalai Lama, which are illegal. (One English woman was even assaulted by Chinese soldiers for wearing a Sergeant Bilko tee shirt, since Phil Silvers, who played the sergeant, supposedly resembled the Dalai Lama.) The old Tibet and its people are rapidly disappearing.

This anti-Tibetan animus was further driven home to me when a young professor who came from mainland China, but had a job in the U.S., went on a rant to me about the Dalai Lama, asking me if I realized that he “drank human blood from a skull.”  Of course young Chinese are taught that the Dalai Lama is a figure of divisiveness and rebellion. and he’s called a “terrorist”, so I eventually understood.

Now pre-Chinese Tibet wasn’t perfect by a long shot: it had the remnants of a feudal system, only a step from slavery, and many people were mistreated. But one can’t say that it’s palpably better now, especially for the Tibetans, who are slowly being driven to extinction by the Chinese, and are forcibly denied many of their traditional religious perquisities.

Anyway, UCSD’s invitation to the Dalai Lama angered the university’s Chinese students, who said he was an inappropriate speaker because he was an oppressor, because he was divisive, and because his invitation showed a “lack of respect” to Chinese students. Notably, his choice was said to show an “ethnic secessionism” equivalent to Trump’s xenophobia, an anti-egalitarianism, and a lack of cultural sensitivity to Chinese students. (The students’ objections are detailed in the article.)  What was surprising was the students’ and alumni’s use of social justice rhetoric:

In a letter addressed to the university’s chancellor, the UCSD Shanghai Alumni Group used similar rhetoric, invoking “diversity” to justify its opposition.

As Chinese alumni, we are proud to be part of the growing UC community because of its diversity and inclusiveness. When addressing such a diverse community, there is a greater responsibility to spread a message that brings people together, rather than split them apart. During the campus commencement, there will be over a thousand Chinese students, families, and friends celebrating this precious moment with their loved ones. 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.


At UCSD, the Chinese-student opposition to the invitation came instantly. Just hours after the announcement, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) issued a lengthy, Chinese-language note on WeChat saying it had communicated with the Chinese consulate about the matter.

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 is built. 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. Specific details of these measures will be outlined in our future statements.

We don’t know what these “further measures to firmly resist the university’s unreasonable behavior” will be; I hope they’ll consist of peaceful protests. In fact, I’m pretty sure they will be.

Of course nobody knows what the Dalai Lama would actually say in his address, but I strongly suspect he’d stay away from matters politic. What strikes me about this protest is that the Chinese students who object come from a country that’s dedicated to wiping out a cultural minority. How dare they protest the Dalai Lama on grounds of promoting “cultural diversity” and “respect”? And it’s also striking that they’ve adopted the language of social justice warriors. As the article reports:

“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,” says professor Jeffrey Wasserstrom, who researches modern Chinese history at the University of California, Irvine. “There is a borrowing of rhetorical strategies.”

Dr. Tsering Topgyal, a Tibetan native who received his master’s degree at UCSD and now lectures at the UK’s University of Birmingham, called diversity “an expedient notion to latch onto given its importance in both rhetoric and substance in the US and academia.” But he questions its appropriateness as a framing device for this specific grievance:

“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. 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.”

Let’s face it: these Chinese students are neither oppressed nor victims. If anybody is, it’s the Tibetans. How ironic, then, that the Chinese use the language of victimhood in their protests. Of course they have every right to protest, but they really should absorb a bit more history.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

h/t: Mehul

51 thoughts on “Chinese students object to Dalai Lama’s graduation speech because it violates tolerance and diversity

  1. Hitchens was NOT a good man

    From: Why Evolution Is True


  2. …his choice was said to show an “ethnic secessionism” equivalent to Trump’s xenophobia

    I find it highly amusing that their argument for his unacceptability as a speaker is “he’s like the US President.”

    What a sad state we’ve come to.

  3. “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.

    Yes, it’s kind of like a small government conservative doing everything they can to reduce federal regulation, then using that constitutional freedom to regulate away a woman’s right to choose at the state level.

    If you let that guy make rules about me, that’s oppression. But if those guys are allowed to do what they want instead of what I tell them to do, you are taking away my rightful ability to create the community I want. Excuse me, I meant to say we want. Because we all want it. Except those guys – screw them, they don’t count.

  4. The poet Robert Burns had a few lines for people like these students.

    “O wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!
    It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
    And foolish notion:

    (From – To a Louse.)

  5. It is interesting that the Chinese largely get a pass from the world community over the “annexation” of Tibet, a violent and ethnic cleansing event going on for 60 years or more, while the Israeli’s receive world wide condemnation for annexing the Golan and other areas in Israel to protect themselves from hostile neighbors. Russia gets a pass on their takeover of the Kuril Islands and all of Eastern Europe during WWII not to mention Crimea recently. The list is endless of territory seized from one neighbor by another. The US seized a whole continent. Yet the UN routinely vilifies Israel.
    Why is that?

    1. Because Israel is not a nation state. It is a colonial state propped up by foreign powers for the purpose of subjugating its historical residents (Arab Muslims) and their neighbors in order to extract the natural resources from under their feet.*

      *Not actually what I think, but what many people do.

  6. Aren’t they the beneficiaries of inclusiveness just by being there?

    Though I am sort of on their side in that any religious figure is by definition going to be offensive to someone. Surely there are secular speakers who have something interesting to say. Why do we have to hear about the virtues of treating other people well from religious figures?

    1. I’d rather let religious figures speak and take the “offense” excuse off the table entirely than accept any form of no-platforming.

      If students want to invite a religious figure to speak, that’s fair. We can ridicule without resorting to censorship.

      1. Entirely agreed.

        Since most of the population of the world is, at least nominally, of one religion or another, who’s going to say which religions are acceptable and which are not? You’re going to be left with a damn short list of speakers (and if they’re atheists then anybody religious can object)


    2. any religious figure is by definition going to be offensive to someone.

      Remove the word “religion” and it’s probably still true. Which is why the First Amendment (and laws like it) are important.

  7. These students should remember Tien-an-min Square and reflect on what their own government has done and is doing – and would do to them if they went home and got out of line!

  8. “Chinese students in the US are using ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity’ to oppose a Dalai Lama graduation speech.”

    FFS, get over it, get a life, people. Grow up.*

    ‘inclusion’ does NOT mean that every other bugger has to conform to exactly what *you* want, all the time. It means you get a fair go, not that you rule the place. It does not give every piddling minority group or interest a veto on everything or, collectively, the whole will not be able to do any damn thing at all.

    (* That’s aimed at the students, just to be clear).


  9. You have an address for those monks in Tibet, Jerry? I’d like to send ’em a box of Bilko t-shirts. The idea of Tibetan monks running around the monastery with Phil Silvers on their chest tickles my fancy.

  10. When I was living in Korea during the Beijing olympics and the torch was passing though Seoul a group of expatriated tibeteans and some others , including human rights protestors who were speaking out against China’s policy of sending back refugee North Koreans who faced certain execution for attempting to flee, lined the path of the torch. Bus loads of Chinese students on buses chartered by the Chinese embassy assaulted them and beat them in the streets. Also remember the lecture given by some tibetean monks in UCLA who were pelted by water bottles by Chinese students

  11. Like often, reality has many facets. In the Western world, we are often restricted to a very limited and biased view of non Western realities. I have studied Chinese history and culture for the last 3 years, and my understanding is that Chinese authorities value very much their ethnic diversity, including customs, religions and languages. Tibet has been an integral part of China for at least 14 Centuries, and the majority of Tibetan people have no desire for independence. Here is an interesting video on the topic:

    1. Thanks for the Chinese subtitled propaganda. Im sure the Tibetan people are perfectly happy being squeezed out of existence in their homeland. They even shoot Tibetans trying to escape near the border with Nepal right under the noses of tourists and mountaineers. The Chinese govt imports mass immigration of Han Chinese into these regions, which it considers uncivilised and in need of the imposition of full laissez faire economic development which condemns them to complete economic marginalisation by the Han, despises their religions, and expects integration to Han Chinese norms (Ethnicity in China Xiaowei Zang, China Today pp 147-164. Along with Falun Gong, their dissidents and leaders are a great target for nonconsensual organ harvesting too. pp 240-246 The Slaughter, Ethan Gutman

      1. Put another way: Even if most Tibetans were happy with the arrangements, and even if (as seems to have been the case) Tibet was not independent much, so what? Are they being Tibetans being mistreated now? Yes!

  12. The PRC propaganda machine is much more powerful in its effect than what Trump could ever hope for in the U.S. The lack of a free press in China, its one-party system, invasion and take-over of Tibet, daily threats to Taiwan with over 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan, interference in Taiwan’s national elections, artificial islands in the South China Sea, its treatment of minorities, the world’s largest standing army, and the relative lack of U.N. opposition to its territorial policies – what do PRC Chinese students studying overseas have to cry about?

    As a caucasian who moved from San Diego (CA, USA), to live in Taiwan, I have grown quite sick of China’s bullshit and existential threats.

    And PRC students outside of China want to claim their feelings of national identity have been hurt? Get a life.

    1. ” . . . I have grown quite sick of China’s bullshit and existential threats.”

      It apparently doesn’t sufficiently bother U.S. companies off-shoring their manufacturing to mainland China, eh? 😉

  13. this bothered me, “Just hours after the announcement, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) issued a lengthy, Chinese-language note on WeChat saying it had communicated with the Chinese consulate about the matter.” Why would they run to the consulate unless they needed to clear what to say or do with the Chinese government? So is this a foreign government’s attempt to interfere with a speaker at a U.S. institution?

    Also I am rather new to the idea and term SJW. I was interested in what comprises the words, tactics, and ideas of sjw. Can someone tell me what is the whole SJW thing. Thanks. Hugs

      1. I think I will have to reread it tomorrow as it did not really seem to answer my questions. Maybe I am just tired or not grasping the ideas. I tried to follow the post but it seemed to be that any group against something was a SJW. I remember thinking when I first hear the term that SJW’s must be people that stood up for others oppressed and were about helping others. I like that idea. However the more I have read recently it seems my original idea is badly mistaken. Hugs

        1. SJW stands for Social Justice Warrior.

          It is a derogatory term to refer to people who, rather than engaging in actual social justice activism, instead retreat to their keyboards and get all offended on the internet. They go to 50k a year colleges and they feel ‘unsafe’ and ‘threatened’ when the menu is not appropriately culturally sensitive, or when people wear the wrong costumes for Halloween.

          They engage in something called ‘identity politics’ wherein, they argue, whoever is the most oppressed is always right. The most oppressed people on the planet, currently, according to SJWs, are Muslims, ergo, Muslims cannot be criticized for *anything*, even FGM or child marriage. Unless of course a Muslim makes the mistake of disagreeing with an SJW, in which case the SJW decides that the Muslim is a ‘race traitor’ and can be ignored.

          White cishet men are considered to be the ultimate evil. White cisheternormative men (that means straight, not-trans) invented TEH PATRIARCHY and TEH CAPITALISM in order to specfically oppress women and ‘people of color’. People of color have never done anything wrong ever (such as kill, murder, enslave or engage in genocide) because they are noble savages who are incapable of building great empires. Only white cishet males can build great empires, and this is what makes them evil. All white cishet males are guilty for the actions of their forebears and thus need to ask for forgiveness for the sin of being born white cishet and male.

          Social Justice WARRIORS are primarily concerned with shaming those who are not ideologically pure enough and with signalling their own virtue (through shaming others)

          Social Justice ACTIVISTS go out in the world and actually help people.

          1. Thank you Cindy. That was much more informative and a lot easier to understand. I wish that SJW had been given a different name because the idea of being a warrior for the oppressed and downtrodden is really cool. That is the SJA you describe. Be well. Hugs

            1. No problems Scottie.

              I guess from your pic that you are a white male?

              Thanks for inventing capitalism to oppress the world, bro! I hope you are sufficiently sorry for committing the grave misdeed of having been born a white male. **smiley face**

              1. I thank you for looking at my picture, I was rather proud of how I cleaned up that year. 🙂 but I have a out to the sin or being a white male. I am a member of a minority also. I am a gay man in a long term relationship recently married. SO I think I can deflect the “white male is always wrong” thing a little bit. ( giggle giggle ) Hugs

              2. Scottie, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that gay men are oppressors.


                See, SJWism, in order to keep itself running, has to engage in something called the ‘oppression olympics’. SJWs are in constant competition with each other to determine who is the most oppressed and thus the most virtuous. Oppression points are worth their weight in gold in SJWland, and gay men, specifically white gay men, are simply not oppressed *enough*. Currently Muslims and trans folk are holding the title for ‘most oppressed’.

                Here is a handy chart for you:


                (Charts included in the article)

                Just to give you an example of how the the concept is used out in the wild. I was arguing with a woman who said that the poor, should they find themselves without reproductive healthcare because their hospital has been bought out by a Catholic conglomerate, should just ‘move’, since she moves from job to job across the USA and never has any problems, so why can’t the rural poor move if they can no longer get appropriate healthcare?

                I told her, legitimately so, to check her privilege, since not everyone can just pack up and flit across the country from job to job. She told me that I was wrong to say this, since was a ‘person of colour’ and therefore more oppressed than me or any of the rural poor! Oh, did I mention, she came from a rich family, but apparently that didnt’ mean anything, since she, being a ‘person of colour’ is the most oppressed in the whole world and therefore can do no wrong.

              3. OH wow, that is really messed up the way that lady thought. I am amazed all this could have been going on and I am just discovering it now. How big is this movement? Do they coordinate or is it just everyone gets to make their own rules? I will skip over and check out the chart. I wonder how they can just lump groups without thinking on individual circumstances. I find all this rather weird. Hugs

              4. In my opinion they are largely a minority however they are a loud, squeaky minority and thus they get more attention than they deserve. Most people don’t buy into their bullshit. The folks on WEIT are what I would term Social Justice Activists – they care about helping people vs having oppression pity parties and forcing their ideas on others through authoritarianism.

                Yes, they do in fact make it up as they go along. You will find that SJW morals are very contextual and full of contradictions. They are also always changing the language so that they always have an excuse others of bigotry.

                Here is a good article by Helen Pluckrose on third wave intersectional feminism, which is what SJWism is:


                They also employ something known as the ‘Kafka Trap’ so that you are *always* guilty if they should accuse you of bigotry:


                I have been Kafka Trapped (on PZ Myers blog) and also a victim of words-that-I-thought-were-innocent-changing-their-meaning-overnight-turning-me-into-a-bigot

              5. If you search ‘PZ Myers’ and “Pharyngula’ in the search bar you should find some articles wherein PCC has taken issue with some of the stuff that PZ and crew have done…

                Basically, PZ Myers blog is the home of toxic SJWism. What happened is, I made the mistake of explaining that, due to living in a cold cabin without central heating that my fingers were often numb and therefore I really did *not* care, when writing, if I made a lot of typos or if my grammar was found wanting. All that I wanted to do was to communicate the concept, perfect grammar/capitalization etc be damned..

                I assumed that this was an innocent statement. Well, no. Apparently it was an attack on the disabled – a vicious attack upon those with poor eyesight and upon people for whom English is a second language. I tried to explain that a) I was speaking in general and that I had not in fact engage in such behaviour on Pharyngula and b) that when your fingers are numb from the cold, that it’s not possible to type perfectly at all times.

                They then informed me that I was being an ‘asshole’ because I was defending my horrid behaviour. That was the Kafka Trap.

Leave a Reply