Ancient China erected the Great Wall to keep out the barbarians. Modern China has erected the Great Firewall to prevent barbarian thoughts from infecting the health of the citizens of the People’s Republic. Like the ancient wall, the Great Firewall has been breached. Tibetan exiles have initiated a conversation with the netizens of China that has the potential to moderate Beijing’s policy towards Tibetans and other minorities.
One burning topic of discussion between Tibetan exiles and the Chinese on the Mainland is the spate of fiery deaths that engulf Tibet today. So far, 51 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009. All of them called for freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his homeland. When informed of these self-immolations, the reaction from the Chinese netizens is one of is shock and disbelief. Even when images of self-immolations were sent to them, the sentiment of the majority Chinese netizens is, this can’t be happening in China. [Source]
*Thubten Samphel is the director of the Tibet Policy Institute. Views expressed here do not reflect those of the Central Tibetan Administration.