Over 10,000 sign petition rejecting a Tibetan as university student president in Toronto

Chemi Lhamo
Chemi Lhamo
Chemi Lhamo. Image from Chemi Lhamo & The National Post.
18th February 2019

Chinese student creates petition to challenge Tibetan student president in Toronto

A Tibetan-Canadian student and politician has come under attack from Chinese students, after she won an election to become president of The University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus student union in Canada, The Montreal Gazette and The Global Times reported.

Following her victory to become student president, Chemi Lhamo became the target of online abuse, and a petition was launched by a Chinese student which over 10,000 people signed, questioning her qualifications for the position.  

The petition which was started on 8 February  by ‘Kennedy L’, was titled: "We don't want such person to be the students' union president." It added that Chemi Lhamo has "too much political involvement" with an outside group, which the petition said was Free Tibet.

Lhamo came under attack online as news of her victory spread.

"The... student union is about to be controlled by Tibetan separatists,” one person said. With another adding, "China is your daddy — you better know this."

"Ur not gonna be the president of UTSC," another said. "Even if you do, we will make sure things get done so u won't survive a day. Peace RIP."

Lhamo feared for her safety and her office in the students union was temporarily closed. She questioned whether the Chinese government could be behind the attack.

Lhamo, 22, is a Canadian citizen of Tibetan descent who spent the first half of her life in India and supports Tibetan independence from Chinese occupation.

“I was a little surprised, but seconds after reading some of the comments I realized this was probably a tactic by the Chinese government,” she told the Montreal Gazette. “This looks very orchestrated. We’ve seen enough of this stuff to know it’s not coming out of nowhere.”

A spokesperson for China’s Consulate general in Toronto has denied any involvement from Beijing.

Take action

Internet giant Google has been working on a search engine for the Chinese market: Project Dragonfly. Dragonfly would censor information on human rights abuses in Tibet and give the Chinese security services access to the data of people making searches. These dangerous plans have been opposed by Tibetans, Uyghirs, Chinese dissidents, human rights defenders and Google's own employees. Get involved - tell Google's executives to stop Project Dragonfly.