Students at the University of California at San Diego have expressed outrage that the commencement speaker for this year’s graduating class will be the Dalai Lama -- the Buddhist religious leader who was also the ruler of Tibet until his country was overrun by Chinese forces in 1950. He has since lived in exile and has been an advocate for world peace and understanding.
However, UC San Diego senior John Leo is upset that the Dalai Lama has been invited. Leo is an officer at the campus’ Chinese Student Scholars Association. While he is prepared to accept his diploma this spring, he is not looking forward to the honor bestowed on the Dalai Lama. According to local reports, Leo said, "I will probably go and leave when Dalai Lama is on the stage."
When university administrators announced last week that they had chosen the Dalai Lama, Leo and his confreres were upset. He said, “Inviting such controversial figure ... It's very disrespectful."
"We are shocked to see someone from, you know, from China, stand up against China," Leo complained.
Another Chinese student, Ruixuan Wang wrote an opinion piece for the student website of the university. He wrote: “Our nation values unity just as you value democracy in the United States. However, the Dalai Lama spent his whole life trying to separate Tibet from the mainland of China, regardless of how much privilege and freedom the government offered the people of Tibet.”
Tibet has been under Chinese domination ever since the 1950 invasion. Monastery lands were seized, landlords singled out for torture and death. Ancient monasteries were destroyed as China inflicted its program of imposing Chinese culture and language on Tibet for decades. The genocide of Tibetans by China has amounted to the deaths of approximately 1.2 million persons since 1950.
Student Leo said he wants the university to “show more respect for student that have a different culture.” The Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak in June.
The university released the following statement:
"The University of California San Diego has always served as a forum for discussion and interaction on important public policy issues and respects the rights of individuals to agree or disagree as we consider issues of our complex world. Our 2017 speaker, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, carries a message that promotes global responsibility and service to humanity that is of great interest to the UC San Diego community and to our students as they enter their professional lives. As a public university dedicated to the civil exchange of views, the university believes commencement is one of many events that provide and appropriate opportunity to present to graduates and their families a message of reflection and compassion."