Chinese Students in California Seek Safe Space from Dali Lama

The “safe space” movement that’s been sweeping the American campus is now rubbing off on international students well, beginning in California.

The University of California at San Diego announced it was welcoming the Tibetan spiritual leader Dali Lama to speak at commencement, causing Chinese students who view him as a dangerous separatist – a popular view circulated back home in state-run media – to seek safe space status.

Following the announcement, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association in a collective statement said: “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.”

While the Dali Lama hasn’t publicly called for outright Tibetan independence, the Chinese government is highly critical of him.

One student on Facebook expressed concern over just how sensitive he is.

“Commencement is a landmark of our life. Our family members are coming all the way from China, flying for more than 10 hours to celebrate with us. The Dalai Lama, as a political icon, is viewed differently in our country. We want to spend a fantastic time with our family during the commencement, but his presence will ruin our joy.”

Still, the university is unlikely to revoke their invitation.

A school statement read: “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 an appropriate opportunity to present to graduates and their families a message of reflection and compassion.”

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.