By Tenzin Sangmo
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 11: A Tibetan woman who recently won the election for President of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU) is faced with a group of Chinese students appealing the results in a petition.
Chemi Lhamo, a Neuroscience and Psychology student in her fourth year of study, led the Shine Bright UTSC slate as its presidential candidate having served as the Vice President Equity at SCSU for years.
Her win saw an inundation of congratulatory messages from Tibetan netizens across the world.
However, a group of Chinese students who protested her candidacy are now appealing the results.
The petition casts aspersions over her qualification for the position as she was firstly “selling miserable stories to students” and secondly for her involvement in the political arena as a part of Free Tibet group, a reference to her Instagram account description.
The petition says, “She has too much political involvement with that outside group, how would international students feel if they have an SCSU leader criticizing foreign countries?”
The Varsity, the University’s newspaper reported, “Lhamo recalled growing up as a stateless Tibetan refugee in India who ‘has gone through a lot of adversities in life,’ now working three jobs to make ends meet in addition to keeping up with academic requirements and volunteering. She also mentioned creating a mentorship program for Tibetan youth in Canada.”
In the same report, Lhamo pointed to “representation” as her priorities as a president, “I think I have emphasized this enough because representation is so important,” she said. “All my life I have been treated as an outsider. It’s not a sob story — it’s just a reality.”
After her win, Lhamo said, "I’m honoured to share that I will be serving as the President of the University of Toronto Scarborough Student’s Union starting May 1st once ratified. Driven by my values of wisdom and compassion, I’m looking forward to this new step."
The petition meanwhile has garnered 8433 supporters at the time of reporting. A Chinese student named Taryn Tian cited this reason for signing the petition, “Chinese people of all ethnic groups are firmly opposed to any attempt to split the Chinese territory and sovereignty.”
On the other hand, Tibetan supporters like Tenzin Gyaltsen took to Facebook to say “It’s a proud moment in our history for Tibetan taking leadership roles in renowned Universities” and dubbed the petition as part of the propaganda of the Chinese hardliners with really weak points to claim their view.
Lhagyari Namgyal Dolker, member of Tibetan parliament of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), congratulated Lhamo on her FB. “The preposterous criticisms against you (clearly with political motive from the “other side”) shows you’re already making a difference as a young leader!!”
Following suit, Pema Tibet, a former intern at Students for a Free Tibet and a student of Financial policy at American University congratulated Lhamo on winning the election fairly after several years of service to her university and months of campaigning with her group #shinebrightUTSC. Pema, in her post, lauded Lhamo for maturely handling all the personal attacks she received on social media from a group of Chinese students.
About the petition, she said, “I am not saying that the university will do this - it would be a complete blow to their reputation as a legitimate institution that respects academic freedom and democracy - but even just seeing that there are people in the world that have such hatred for Tibetans to do such a thing as creating this petition is disturbing.”