Amid clear warnings by Beijing that US President Barack Obama should avoid meeting the Dalai Lama at the White House later this month, another development involving the exiled Tibetan leader has gone unnoticed. On Sept. 30, the University of Calgary awarded an honorary degree of laws — the university’s highest honor — to the Dalai Lama.
Three months later, the University of Calgary was dropped from the Chinese Ministry of Education’s accreditation list of universities for Chinese students desiring to study abroad, the Calgary Herald newspaper reported on Thursday.
The Hotline for Overseas Studies Service Center in Beijing had the following advice for Chinese students: “If you don’t already go to that school, it is better not to go because you will face risks.”
The hotline recommends Chinese students choose their university only from among those on the list.
While an operator at the center told the Herald that degrees for Chinese students who are already studying at the University of Calgary would be certified by the ministry, she said that “the policy might change” in coming years.
Asked by the Herald why Beijing had blacklisted the university, a spokeswoman at the Chinese Consulate in Calgary said the university “should know.” The Herald also reported that in April, Chinese consulate officials had met representatives of the university to express their opposition to the Dalai Lama visiting the campus.
The spiritual leader did not go to the campus.
“We have offended our Chinese partners by the very fact of bringing in the Dalai Lama, and we have work to resolve that issue,” university spokesperson Colleen Turner told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) on Thursday.
The university knew its decision to give the Dalai Lama an honorary degree could “anger” Beijing, she said.
University officials were trying to determine what the ministry’s decision would mean for current Chinese students and alumni and their chances of finding employment once they returned to China.
About 600 students from China and Hong Kong are enrolled at the University of Calgary. On average, tuition for foreign students is three times higher than for local students.
One Chinese student, who only gave her name as “Jessie,” told CBC she was afraid she would not be able to find a job when she returns home.
“I’m international and I’m paying triple the tuition, and that’s a lot of money, and my parents are the ones paying for that,” the third-year student said.
“I just don’t want to waste all that money because they work really hard to support me,” she said.
She said she knew the Chinese government would react harshly to the Dalai Lama’s visit.