LETTER TO THE EDITOR
(TibetanReview.net, Dec31’22) – Song Xiaolan, the woman that the media are reporting on as a spy and threat to the Dalai Lama is nothing of the sort. She is being deported due to visa overstay and no spy charges are being made against her by the police.
She was a volunteer teacher in McLeod Ganj during the pandemic years when I was an English teacher there. She taught Chinese to a handful of students.
She has no English, Tibetan or Hindi language capability.
She had a small rented apartment and spent almost all of her time there. I went multiple times to her place for Chinese lessons along with five or six others. She never attempted to cultivate a relationship with anybody that a spy might try to gain access to. She mostly kept to herself but did try to seek out Tibetan language teachers as she was interested in joining a nunnery and studying dharma. She was often sick and frequently needed help from Tibetan doctors.
She hoped never to return to China and lived in fear of being forced to leave India at the end of her visa. Due to paranoia among the Indian and Tibetan community regarding Chinese nationals she always feared deportation.
Song was difficult to communicate with. Every conversation needed to be carried out using a translator on a phone app or in very basic spoken Chinese.
Some Tibetans there thought she may have been a spy. I always thought this was a ridiculous notion. Spies are highly trained professionals who seamlessly blend into the society within which they have been planted and work their way up the ranks in an effort to acquire information about or access to particular individuals or government / corporate entities. There are likely many Chinese spies hidden among the Tibetan community in India. These spies, however, will not stick out like sore thumbs. They will not be people unable to communicate in Tibetan, Hindi or English who spend most of their time at the doctor, sick in bed, or teaching a handful of people basic Chinese. Somebody like Song would not be an asset to the Chinese government. Spies will be the people that the community least suspect.
I always thought Song Xiaolan’s life was a great story for Tibetan exiles. A Chinese person who had left Communist China after being drawn by the Buddha’s teachings to come and study in India. People like this should be embraced by the community, not denounced as spies without any evidence.
I think it’s a great shame that Song is being deported and will now probably never have the chance to leave China again.
— Ben Byrne