Intelligence consultant reaffirms suspicion about Beijing’s involvement in mortal, vile online threats on Tibetan on her student union election victory

Ms Chemi Lhamo. (Photo courtesy: (Facebook/Chemi Lhamo)

(, May05’19) – A consultant to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has told London-based Free Tibet advocacy group that the death threats and abuse targeted at a Tibetan student who got elected in Feb 2019 as a university student union president in Toronto likely originated from Chinese diplomats in Canada. His suspicion confirms a previous assessment declared by an MP in the Canadian parliament.

The threats against the University of Toronto student indicated an increasingly aggressive stance in China’s foreign policy as its economic rise continued, the group cited CSIS consultant Charles Burton as saying in a report posted on its website May 2.

The Tibetan student, Ms Chemi Lhamo, was elected as president of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Student Union amid a wave of online abuse and death threats from ostensible or real Chinese students, some of whom vowed to ensure she would not be able to assume the presidency.

An online petition was launched by the Chinese, which gained over 10,000 signatures, demanding that she be stopped from becoming president, citing her stance in favour of Tibet’s independence from Chinese occupation rule.

The group said vile online comments threatened her with death or be raped. “You’re going to get shot and the bullets are going to be made in China,” one Chinese was quoted as saying online.

“Tibet is a part of China,” another Chinese comment was quoted as saying. “There is only one China forever, you dark-skinned whore.”

Burton, a former diplomat to China for consular political affairs, has said it was likely that the campaign was the work of the Chinese government. However, he has not confirmed whether the CSIS was working on the case or if he had knowledge of it.

“It appears likely that the coordinated campaign against Chemi probably originated in the planning of the United Front Work Department Canada desk, simply because the degree of response simultaneously suggests that it wasn’t a spontaneous action by a large group of unconnected individuals,” Burton has said, adding he did not have evidence to prove the allegations.

Burton believes that the front communicated with Chinese students at the University of Toronto via Chinese social media platform WeChat, asking them to join the attack on Lhamo. Burton believes this had the approval from the Chinese government.

The report cited an unnamed Canadian university professor as saying a request like this could be difficult for students with Chinese citizenship to turn down because refusal could mean repercussions for family members at home or a possible damage to their careers when they returned to China.

Burton sees the campaign as an attempt by Beijing to force Lhamo to step down.

“It stands to reason that this activity with regard to a significant leader at the University of Toronto campus would be something that would be of concern to the Chinese government and they would prefer that she not have a leadership role for fear that… would add prestige to the legitimacy of the Tibetan independence cause which she supports,” Free Tibet quoted him a saying.

Burton’s comments are seen to confirm a similar assessment announced to the Canadian parliament On Feb 21 by Canadian MP Garnett Genuis who had said, “There is indication that some of this intimidation and bullying may have as its source the nefarious inclinations of some diplomats here in Canada.”

“This is a very serious issue in terms of freedom of speech on campus, and also in the way in which foreign diplomats may be engaging in intimidating Canadian students,” Genuis had added.

The report noted that records obtained by The Washington Post showed that the students had co-ordinated their action with the Chinese embassy.

Burton is said to believe that there could be real danger for Lhamo as China becomes increasingly assertive and outspoken abroad while continuing its drive to integrate Tibet with China.


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