Posted by: Third Tone Devil | 1 May 2008

New York Times article on Chinese student protests in US

There is a cogent article by Shayla Dewan in the 28 April NYT that summarizes various recent protests by Chinese students:

Scenes … ranging from civil to aggressive, have played out at colleges across the country over the past month, as Chinese students in the United States have been forced to confront an image of their homeland that they neither recognize nor appreciate. Since the riots last month in Tibet, the disrupted Olympic torch relays and calls to boycott the opening ceremony of the Games in Beijing, Chinese students, traditionally silent on political issues, have begun to lash out at what they perceive as a pervasive anti-Chinese bias.

Campuses including Cornell, the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of California, Irvine, have seen a wave of counterdemonstrations using tactics that seem jarring in the American academic context. At the University of Washington, students fought to limit the Dalai Lama’s address to nonpolitical topics. At Duke, pro-China students surrounded and drowned out a pro-Tibet vigil; a Chinese freshman who tried to mediate received death threats, and her family was forced into hiding.

The student anger, stoked through e-mail messages sent to large campus mailing lists, stems not so much from satisfaction with the Chinese government but from shock at the portrayal of its actions, as well as frustration over the West’s long-standing love affair with Tibet — a love these students see as willfully blind.

Indeed, I think much of the current reaction must be stemming from the fact that the Chinese Internet’s fulmination about Western bias in reporting on the March riots in TIbet strikes a deeper chord with most Chinese students abroad. Everyone can recall comments by a classmate, or frames from a television report, that struck them as ignorant, probably wilfully so, of the China they know. Stripping away the denunciations on the Chinese Internet about distortions in the current case (which strike me more like irresponsible sloppiness) being part of a conspiracy to split China, there remains a genuine, but hard-to-pinpoint bias in most Western media, fed not so much by China correspondents but by commentators, that has indeed succeeded in maintaining an image of Chinese as poor, fearful and brainwashed. It seems that Chinese students abroad, now that their own status and that of China have risen, will no longer just scoff at this view but will attempt to stamp it out.


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