By Tenzin Sangmo
The actions of Hong Kong students advocating for democracy aren’t easily understood by students from mainland China. (Wong Maye-E _ Associated Press)
DHARAMSHALA, August 22: Chinese state propaganda is the reason behind demonstration by Chinese students in Western Universities against Hong Kong protests, says Yaqui Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) in an op-ed in Los Angeles Times.
Wang says she disagrees but understands why the Chinese students have tried to shout down demonstrators at pro-democracy rallies in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“They remind me of myself when I first came to the U.S. to study in 2009.”
She mentions her own consternation at the time seeing Tibetans protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. since she grew up thinking Tibetans were happy with development brought by the Chinese.
Her interaction with Tibetan protestors whom she said were understanding instead of condescending, challenged her belief, taking her several years since then to understand the sufferings of many Tibetans in China on an emotional level.
“I had no access to contrary opinions because of government censorship, so I couldn’t fathom that Tibetans were self-immolating to protest the severe suppression of their language, culture, and identity.”
Wang revealed that studies had shown that overseas Chinese students, totaling around 1.5 million still relies on information from China’s heavily censored internet and media.
"Unlearning untrue information and the beliefs it engenders can take a lifetime," she writes.
Chinese students when confronted with assumptions that they have been “brainwashed by the Chinese government feel attacked and reaffirms what they were taught in China: The West is biased and hostile.”
This, she says, explains why pro-Hong Kong posters on the campus of the University of Tasmania in Australia were repeatedly torn down.
She observes the language the Chinese student group use in its statement against the posters calling it an “insult to China,” and the group “resolutely defend the motherland’s unity," comes straight out of the Chinese government propaganda.
As a child in China, Wang chose to memorize and regurgitate incomprehensible concepts like “the scientific system of Mao Zedong thought” and “socialist system with Chinese characteristics,” instead of thinking about their meaning as not thinking is self-preservation when living under Communist Party rule.
The op-ed encourages interaction with Chinese students and more nonjudgmental engagement considering how students are closely watched by Chinese embassies in respective western countries.
The article, on an optimistic note, said professors have confirmed that many Chinese students are eager to learn and open to persuasion when schools are mindful of the many underlying constraints these students face.
In her own case, learning about the Chinese government’s human rights violations led to the work she does today at HRW.
“In the long run,” she concluded, “today’s students living abroad may be best positioned to return home and chart a new direction for China.”
Wang, on Twitter, said Chinese government’s conditioning of its people into non-thinking beings is one of the most frightening effects of the Communist Party's 70-year rule of China.