Tibetan Woman Elected Student President at University of Toronto Sparks Outrage Among Chinese Students

Chinese students at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus expressed outrage after a Tibetan student was elected the new president of the students’ union.

Chemi Lhamo, a fourth-year Neuroscience and Psychology student at the University of Toronto, made the announcement of her win in an Instagram post on February 10:

“Thank you to everyone for all the support and love. I’m honoured to share that I will be serving as the President of the University of Toronto Scarborough Student’s Union starting May 1st once ratified. Driven by my own values of wisdom and compassion, I’m looking forward to this new step.”

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“Thank you to my world -the parents and mentors for everything. With the right intentions, I hope to apply the greatest gift you’ve given me, my buddhist roots to continue to give back in the best way possible.”

After the announcement, many Chinese students at the university began to post insults and inflammatory comments showing support for China’s occupation of Tibet, according to Taiwan News.

On February 15, China’s Consulate General in Toronto released a statement on the matter, admitting to only hearing of the online attacks against the 22-year-old student from the media.

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However, the statement did not condemn the comments made to Lhamo, CBC reported.

“It is believed that this is an entirely spontaneous action of those Chinese students based on objective facts and patriotic enthusiasm,” the statement reads. “The Chinese government firmly opposes anti-China separatist activities by ‘Tibet independence’ activists who are plotting to split Tibet from China [and] the move of any country or organization to provide support or convenience of any kind to ‘Tibet independence’ activities.”

David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, expressed that Canada should start asking questions about the what happened to Lhamo.

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“Chinese interference among Chinese student groups has been noted for some time,” he said. “I would hope that Ottawa is calling some Chinese diplomats to ask about this. It’s entirely inappropriate but unfortunately it’s a fact of life given the fact that China monitors how it’s perceived in the West.”

A post started to circulate on Chinese messenger app WeChat days before Lhamo announced her win, Taiwan News reported.

The author of the post directs the page to a Change.org petition calling for Lhamo’s impeachment, writing, “Part of our university fees go directly to the Scarborough Campus Student Union. They take our money then use it for this kind of thing?”

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While negative comments ravaged Lhamo’s social media account when she first announced her win, messages of support have since been left on some of her posts.

Images via Instagram / chemilhamoooo

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