Feb 11, 2010

Tibet: Beijing Cuts Off Canadian University After Dalai Lama Honor

Sample ImageWith 600 Chinese students, the university is concerned about the future. The Chinese regime’s vehement opposition to any form of recognition of the Dalai Lama has had repercussions for the University of Calgary (U of C), which awarded the exiled Tibetan leader an honorary degree during his visit to Calgary last September.


Below is an article published by The Epoch Times

The university, which has about 600 students from mainland China and Hong Kong, confirmed last week that it had been removed from the Chinese Ministry of Education's list of accredited institutions last December. The university is now trying to determine what impact this will have.

“Our biggest concern is we don't want to disadvantage current or prospective students or our alumni,” university spokeswoman Colleen Turner told the Calgary Herald. “We knew at the time the decision to bring in the Dalai Lama would not be without controversy. All of that said, the decision to bring in the Dalai Lama was not intended to dishonor or disvalue our relationship with our Chinese partners or the Chinese community,” Turner said.

A call by the Herald to the hotline for Overseas Studies Service Centre in Beijing to inquire about attending U of C got the response, “If you don't already go to that school yet, it is better not to go because you will face risks.” The operator told the caller that if she was already at the University of Calgary, her degree would be certified by the Chinese Ministry of Education, but warned that “the policy might change” in the future.

'If we don’t change China through constructive and substantive engagement, China will change us.'—Dermod Travis, Canada Tibet Committee executive director. The Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) has denounced the delisting, saying the Chinese regime “chooses to bully rather than reason in order to resolve differences.”

“That a foreign power should be so out of touch as to believe that they can intimidate a Canadian university through such tactics would be even more astonishing if it were not the Chinese government doing the intimidating,” said CTC Executive Director Dermod Travis in a statement. U.S. President Barack Obama’s plans to meet with the Dalai Lama later this month has also drawn strong criticism from the Chinese regime, which was already upset with America’s recent $6 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Beijing is firmly opposed to any contact between Obama and the Dalai Lama and warned the visit could further undermine China-U.S. relations. Travis said Western governments need to realize that “if we don’t change China through constructive and substantive engagement, China will change us.”

“The decision to delist the University of Calgary is only the latest illustration of the authoritarian measures that the Chinese government will attempt to export to Western democracies unless we make it abundantly clear that we will not be bullied by authoritarian regimes in our own countries,” he said.
The Dalai Lama has been awarded more than 25 honorary degrees from institutions around the world, including in Canada. In 2006, Canada made him an honorary citizen.
The reason the regime reacted so strongly to U of C in particular could be linked to a generous donation to the university.

Henry Fok Ying-tung, one of Hong Kong's most powerful entrepreneurs who had forged strong ties with Beijing, in 2006 gave the university CAD $2 million (US$1.86 million) toward a new international residence for students and visiting scholars that now bears his name. Fok, who died in 2006 at age 83, was especially close to former Chinese Communist Party head Deng Xiaoping. He was involved in numerous business ventures in China and was also vice president of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference—an elite body involved in making important national level political decisions.

Conservative MP Rob Anders, whose riding includes the university area, told the Calgary Herald that any move by China to sanction the university would be “childish.” “That would be kind of cutting off their nose to spite their face. China would be making a mistake to go down that route,” said Anders, who has long opposed China’s occupation of Tibet. “It's obviously a cheap maneuver given the widespread support the Dalai Lama has,” he said. "It seems kind of petty.”

Doug Horner, Alberta's minister of advanced education, said he will look into getting the situation resolved. "We understand both points of view. Obviously, we'd like to see the situation rectified as soon as possible,” he told the Herald. Horner added that although he does not believe the move means Chinese students' degrees won't be recognized, the delisting will mean a reduction in Chinese enrollments at U of C. He said an upcoming trade mission to China planned for later this year could present an opportunity to talk with regime officials about “what we can do to help the situation along.”

Beijing has long sought to vilify Tibet’s widely respected exiled leader in the eyes of the world by branding him a "separatist" who has fomented violent unrest in his home country.