Toronto Police Examine Online Abuse of Tibetan-Canadian Student Leader Charged with Offending China


The torrent of Chinese students of abuse and others directed at a Tibetan-Canadian student leader in Toronto has now become a police issue.

Detectives began investigating whether some of the thousands of online texts Chemi Lhamo received after being elected president of the University of Toronto student union constitute criminal threats, Toronto police confirmed on Wednesday.

The Internet barrage – and a petition signed by 11,000 people demanding that Lhamo be removed from office – was one of two incidents at universities in Ontario this month that raised the specter of Chinese government interference on Canadian campuses.

Muslim and Tibetan student groups have asked the federal government to investigate whether such incursions have occurred. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa denied having participated in the two episodes.

Meanwhile, Lhamo said that university police asked her to develop a security plan following the online flood, which would include letting them know where she is on campus every hour.

We arrived in Canada hoping for a better quality of life. Being bullied even here … achieves your mental health sometimes

"It's a little threatening, to be wandering the halls knowing that I could be attacked at any moment," she said in an interview. "We came to Canada hoping for a better quality of life. Being bullied so far … attains his mental health sometimes.

Lhamo, 22, is a Canadian citizen of Tibetan descent who immigrated from India with her family 11 years ago. She was elected president of the student union on the campus of Scarborough University in early February. Although she is a champion of Tibet's independence, she has not campaigned on this issue and says she has no plans to be part of her role as president.

But in the wake of her election, thousands of messages flooded her instagram account, often grossly abusive and accusing her of being disloyal to China, a country where she never lived.

Chemi Lhamo, president of the University of Toronto student union.

Courtesy of Chemi Lhamo

The petition of – digitally signed almost entirely by people with Chinese names – has suggested that their devotion to the Tibetan cause is "irrational" and an affront to international students at the university.

Beijing sees the movement for a free Tibet as a major threat; Together with the defense of the Uighur minority, Taiwan, democracy in China and the Falun Gong sect, it is one of the things that the Chinese Communist Party sometimes calls "five poisons."

Lhamo said the Instagram texts included those who said "I wish you would die young"; "The bullet of his penalty is made in China"; and "I kill your whole family."

The Penal Code section that deals with harassment makes it an offense to engage in threatening behavior or repeatedly communicate in a way that leaves someone fearful for their safety.

It is too early, however, to say if any criminal act occurred, Det said. Anthony Rutherford, who is leading the Toronto police review following an earlier investigation by campus police.

"There are approximately 15,000 different posts in multiple languages," he said. "We're going to have to go through all this … It needs to be monitored and more time."

An online update of the petition said that it was not a "personal attack, character assassination or threat of any kind," but to express disapproval of "Lhamo's involvement in political campaigns that were clearly against Chinese history, Chinese laws and students Chinese". rights. "

The unsigned note, however, warned against the publication of abusive or threatening messages that "would greatly influence … how others think about international Chinese students."

The other incident occurred at McMaster University in Hamilton, where five groups of Chinese students protested against the university's decision to allow a lecture by Rukiye Turdush, a Uighur Canadian citizen. Turdush discussed human rights abuses against the Uyghurs, a minority Muslim group in China whose persecution has been well documented by the Western media and human rights organizations.

A statement released by the Chinese students said the conversation incited hatred against China and mentioned that they had notified the consulate of their native country in Toronto.

Free Tibet students co-signed the letter requesting a federal investigation into the possible role of Beijing, but Lhamo said he had no evidence that Chinese officials were involved in the reaction against it.

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