Grace Wang


Unfortunate backdrop

This article is by guest contributor Alice Xin Liu.

On April 9, 2008 at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, two high-profile student ‘protests’ for and against Tibetan independence took place. Grace Wang (Wang Qianyuan 王千源), a 21 year old girl from Qingdao, Shandong, joined in the protest on the campus. Wang is a student at Duke University.

To the shock of many Chinese students at Duke and also at home in China, Wang was protesting for some kind of middle-ground between the foreign pro-Tibetan independence group and the Chinese anti-Tibetan independence group. She wrote ‘Free Tibet’ on the back of a student and also communicated with the Chinese side in Chinese.

In videos of the so-called ‘protests’ (see links at bottom of article), Wang makes a public speech in English, facing the Chinese students, and with the non-Chinese students behind her. Her comments include, “Just because I am Chinese does not mean that I can’t think for myself.”

On forum websites such as Han Wang and Tianya, photos of Wang as a schoolgirl in Shandong have appeared, along with Chinese netizens’ defamatory comments. Their comments range from “race-traitor” (汉奸) to “she can only marry one of the lamas now” (他现在只能嫁给喇嘛了).

In the last few days a pot of human faeces was emptied outside the door of Wang’s parents flat in Qingdao.

Global Voices Online has transcribed a letter from a friend of Wang’s at Duke, dated April 15, stating that her parents’ residence in Qingdao has been attacked by rocks, and that they are in hiding.

Certain netizens expressed doubt as to whether Wang’s motive was to support Tibetan independence, instead saying it was more akin to self-promotion. Some commentators asked why she did not speak in Chinese when she was making the public statement on the Duke campus on April 9 (instead, using “broken English”), saying that her purpose was to show off to foreign students, as well as foreign media, such as NPR (who supposedly interviewed her there).

There was some support of Wang though: one comment on Tianya read, “Good classmate Wang, unfortunately I’m on the Mainland so I can only support you in spirit.” And from the Han Wang BBS: “She has the freedom to express her own views, her choice to support Dalai is a demand for democratic rights. How could you cover her doorstep with a pot of faeces – using this kind of rough and uncivilized method to object?”

Wang’s phone number and address in the US was revealed online, as was her parents’ address in Shandong. The FBI are said to be involved after Wang has received online and offline threats.

Wang wrote an email to the Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association on the day of the April 9 protest, and has since participated in discussions about it on campus. In her e-mail, Wang quotes ancient Chinese sages Sunzi (孙子) and Laozi (老子), and argues for the focus to be on mutual understanding. She tells her Chinese compatriots not to act rashly. “Take away your anger, and your heads will become clear, your minds will become sharper, and then your judgments correct” (消除怒气,头脑才会清晰,思维才能敏捷,决断才会正确).

Today The New York Times published an article by Shaila Dewan about Wang, who met the Chinese student at Duke. It seems that Wang is still in a state of excitement. Dewan writes at the close of the article, “for a woman under threat of dismemberment [netizens have threatened to tear her to pieces if she returns to the mainland], she seemed remarkably sanguine – even upbeat.”

Also today, the front page of the CCTV website showed a picture of Wang, together with a video of the protest and the caption “Most hideous Chinese student abroad” (最丑陋留学生).

Links and Sources
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