Sunday, April 20, 2008

I was threatened for role in Tibet protests: Chinese student

A Chinese woman studying in the United States says she has become the victim of threats and intimidation here for her role during a recent campus protest against China's crackdown in Tibet.

"Trying to mediate between Chinese and pro-Tibetan campus protesters, I was caught in the middle and vilified and threatened by the Chinese," Grace Wang, a student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, wrote in the Washington Post on Sunday.

The student demonstrations at Duke came at the height of pro-Tibet protests earlier this month during the US leg of the Olympic torch run, ahead of China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics.

A surge of pro-Tibet protests and rallies cropped up across the United States, and hundreds of anti-China demonstrators dogged the Olympic flame trying to impede its course to protest Beijing's treatment of Tibet.

Wang wrote that at one such protest at Duke on April 9, while trying to mediate between a group of pro-Tibet protesters and a larger gathering of pro-China students, tempers became so inflamed that she was nearly attacked by fellow Chinese students.

"The Chinese protesters thought that, being Chinese, I should be on their side," she said.

"It started to feel as though an angry mob was about to attack me," wrote Wang, who said she was forced to leave the protest "with a police escort."

She later became the victim of online "intimidation" by fellow students at Duke who deemed her a "traitor" to her country, as well as threatening phone calls.

"It has been a frightening and unsettling experience," she wrote. Nevertheless, Wang, who continues to receive police protection on the Duke campus, said she remains "determined to speak out, even in the face of threats and abuse."

"If I stay silent," she wrote, "then the same thing will happen to someone else someday."

"I had never really met or talked to a Tibetan before, even though we're from the same country. Every day we cooked together, ate together, played chess and cards. And of course, we talked about our different experiences growing up on opposite sides of the People's Republic of China," she wrote in The Post .

Wang said she has been criticized by her countrymen for having written the words "Free Tibet" on the back of an American organizer during the protest, but said in her Post article: "I did this at his request, and only after making him promise that he would talk to the Chinese group.

"I never dreamed how the Chinese would seize on this innocent action," she wrote.

Since the demonstration, Wang says she has become "persona non grata" in China, her parents have gone into hiding there after receiving threats, and their home has been vandalised.

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