This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight into exile. With this anniversary, there have been renewed calls for Tibetan autonomy throughout the world, and a correspondingly harsh response by China's military within Tibet. In the UK Times, this profile of a Tibetan exile based in Canada named Thubten Samdup, who heads an online outreach program that seeks to counter anti-Tibetan sentiment in Chinese language message boards and chat rooms. Snip:
In a simple office overlooking the Himalayan foothills of India a young Tibetan man sits at a computer, trying to succeed where the Dalai Lama has failed for 50 years – by talking to the Chinese. Every day, Sonam and ten other Tibetans – all fluent in Mandarin – surf social networking sites in search of Chinese people to talk to about their homeland. It can be painstaking work.
“Hi, want to chat?” Sonam, 32, asks one man from Beijing. “You male or female?” comes the reply. “Male.” “Not interested.” Like this one, many of the millions of Chinese in chat rooms are searching for love. Most do not want to talk politics. Some become abusive when they realise they are talking to Tibetan exiles.
Sonam contacts about fifty or so people every day and says that half are willing to chat and five or six want to talk in depth. He now has 200 “old friends” to whom he sends information on the Dalai Lama to circumvent China’s “Great Firewall”, which blocks websites about the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. “We don’t say this is right or wrong, or that the Chinese Government should be overthrown,” Sonam told The Times. “We just give people an alternative source of information.”
The aim of the project is bold: to change attitudes towards Tibet among ordinary Chinese in the hope that they will gradually shape Beijing’s policies. Sonam and his colleagues can talk to only a tiny fraction of China’s 300 million netizens – who are notoriously nationalistic. Arguably it offers better prospects, and more immediate results, than the failed negotiations between China and the Dalai Lama, who fled to India 50 years ago yesterday.
Wily Tibetan messengers outfox censors of 'Great Firewall' of China (UK Times -- did they really have to use the adjective "wily?" / Thanks, Oxblood)
Here's the website for the foundation headed by Mr. Samdup.
Related news: fishy reports of pink suitcases packed with TNT in Lhasa (later said to have been detonated by robots), military occupation of Lhasa during the anniversary of the 2008 riots; "How China Invaded California and Took Over Our Legislature", and an article published in Xinhua demanding that the Dalai Lama apologize to China (funny how that logic works).