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China student says she received threats for role in Tibet protests

April 22, 2008

WASHINGTON 21 Apr 2008 (AFP) — A Chinese woman studying in the United
States says she has become the victim of threats and intimidation here
for her role during a recent campus protest against China's crackdown in
Tibet.

"Trying to mediate between Chinese and pro-Tibetan campus protesters, I
was caught in the middle and vilified and threatened by the Chinese,"
Grace Wang, a student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina,
wrote in the Washington Post Sunday.

The student demonstrations at Duke came at the height of pro-Tibet
protests earlier this month during the US leg of the Olympic torch run,
ahead of China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics.

A surge of pro-Tibet protests and rallies cropped up across the United
States, and hundreds of anti-China demonstrators dogged the Olympic
flame trying to impede its course to protest Beijing's treatment of Tibet.

Wang wrote that at one such protest at Duke on April 9, while trying to
mediate between a group of pro-Tibet protesters and a larger gathering
of pro-China students, tempers became so inflamed that she was nearly
attacked by fellow Chinese students.

"The Chinese protesters thought that, being Chinese, I should be on
their side," she said.

"It started to feel as though an angry mob was about to attack me,"
wrote Wang, who said she was forced to leave the protest "with a police
escort."

She later became the victim of online "intimidation" by fellow students
at Duke who deemed her a "traitor" to her country, as well as
threatening phone calls.

"It has been a frightening and unsettling experience," she wrote.

Nevertheless, Wang, who continues to receive police protection on the
Duke campus, said she remains "determined to speak out, even in the face
of threats and abuse."

"If I stay silent," she wrote, "then the same thing will happen to
someone else someday."

Wang wrote that her ephiphany on the question of increased rights for
Tibet came after being housed with Tibetan students for a few weeks
during the Christmas holiday break from classes -- an experience she
described as "eye-opening."

"I had never really met or talked to a Tibetan before, even though we're
from the same country. Every day we cooked together, ate together,
played chess and cards. And of course, we talked about our different
experiences growing up on opposite sides of the People's Republic of
China," she wrote in The Post.

Wang said she has been criticized by her countrymen for having written
the words "Free Tibet" on the back of an American organizer during the
protest, but said her Post article: "I did this at his request, and only
after making him promise that he would talk to the Chinese group.

"I never dreamed how the Chinese would seize on this innocent action,"
she wrote.

Since the demonstration, Wang says she has become "persona non grata" in
China, her parents have gone into hiding there after receiving threats,
and their home has been vandalized.
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