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Vilified Chinese student defends Tibet protest role

April 22, 2008

BEIJING, April 21, 2008 (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." (Reporting by Ben Blanchard;
Editing by Nick Macfie and Valerie Lee)
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