Campaigners in India have joined the global chorus against the University of Sydney’s move to ‘cancel’ the Dalai Lama’s talk at the university in June, allegedly bowing to pressure from China. More than 10,000 in India have already signed petitions condemning the cancellation and asking that his invite be reinstated.
Groups are campaigning fiercely, especially online. “Since Tibetans are scattered, we are trying to put our efforts together,” said Tenzin Tsundue, a Dharamsala-based writer and activist. “We are creating awareness and trying to get people to sign petitions,” said Rohit Singh, campaigns coordinator, Friends of Tibet, in Mumbai.
University officials said the date he was to speak is when students would not be on campus, and he would be addressing a larger group at another location.
A letter was sent by Students for a Free Tibet to the university on Friday. “…Your sudden decision to withdraw support from hosting this event on Sydney University's campus can only have been motivated by Chinese government pressure, which raises serious questions about the university’s commitment to academic freedom, open dialogue and democratic values,” said the letter. “…I urge you to seriously consider the long-term implications of your decision...”
The university issued a statement on Wednesday, saying no official request for a visit had been made from the Dalai Lama’s office and talks were on to arrange a dialogue open to all Sydney students. “There is expertise in Sydney and in Australia that can be brought to focus on these issues [in Tibet]. Our offer for a future event... is in the spirit of that aspiration,” the university’s statement concluded.