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Vilified Chinese student defends Tibet protest role

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese student studying in the United States has defended her role in a protest over Tibet at a U.S. university campus, which has made her and her family the target of a hate campaign in China.

Anti-China protests, triggered by China’s crackdown on Tibetan rioters in Lhasa last month, have erupted around the world, interrupting the international torch relay ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

Grace Wang, from the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao, had tried to mediate in a small demonstration between pro-Tibet and pro-China students at Duke University, where she is an undergraduate.

When she then wrote a letter to the university’s Chinese students’ association explaining her actions, it opened the floodgates to angry denunciations of her for apparently siding with the Tibetan cause.

Writing in the Washington Post on Sunday, she said that threats against her on Chinese websites and her parents being forced into hiding had been a “frightening and unsettling experience”.

“But I’m determined to speak out, even in the face of threats and abuse. If I stay silent, then the same thing will happen to someone else some day,” she wrote.

She said that before she went to Duke and met Tibetans also studying there, she had little idea about the life experiences of people from the remote mountainous region.

“I understand why people are so emotional and angry; the events in Tibet have been tragic. But this crucifying of me is unacceptable. I believe that individual Chinese know this. It’s when they fire each other up and act like a mob that things get so dangerous.”

Wang said that detailed instructions to her parents’ house had appeared on-line, faeces has been emptied on the doorstep, and her high school had revoked her diploma.

“It was ironic: What I had tried so hard to prevent was precisely what had come to pass. And I was the target,” Wang wrote. Her only intention was the get the two sides at the protest to talk to each other, she said, adding that she did not support Tibetan independence.

“And I’d learned from my dad early on that disagreement is nothing to be afraid of. Unfortunately, there’s a strong Chinese view nowadays that critical thinking and dissidence create problems, so everyone should just keep quiet and maintain harmony.”

In a separate report on U.S. government-supported Radio Free Asia, Wang said that a letter supposedly written by her father apologising for her actions was fake.

“I’m sure. They were very clear about that. They also said they knew I would never do anything to betray my country,” Wang was quoted as saying.

“They said that they were just lying low, waiting in silence for the coming of spring, as it were, until everyone had calmed down a bit and could take a different view of the matter.”