In these times of almost-daily protests against President Trump, I thought I had heard it all when it came to student protests. No so. Now, according to PJ Media, Chinese students attending the University of California at San Diego profess outrage that the 14th Dalai Lama has been invited to give the commencement address at their school this year. Yes, you heard that right. I had to read the headline twice before I could believe it really said that.

Who’s afraid of the Dalai Lama?

I have read at least two of the Dalai Lama’s books. He is an intensely wise man who, if nothing else, speaks with much wisdom and beauty.

To the Chinese, however, he is a divisive separatist political figure and the exiled leader of a country that has been under Chinese rule since 1950. The Chinese government intends for it to stay that way. Put into Star Trek terms, it’s as if Kai Opaka of Bajor led the Bajorans in a failed rebellion against the Cardassian Occupation, and the Cardassians were Not Pleased. I think the makers of Deep Space Nine were onto something.

Interestingly, the Tibetan spiritual leader himself thinks it is best that his country not attempt to regain independence from China, only more autonomy within it. The Chinese take a dim view of increased Tibetan freedom. They have banned the Dalai Lama’s image in Tibet, and Tibetans can be jailed and forced to denounce him if they express support for the Dalai Lama or his views.

The Dalai Lama versus the party line

Enter our Chinese students attending the University of California at San Diego. These students were born and raised in China and have been indoctrinated in its government’s message. So it really should come as little surprise that they object to the Tibetan spiritual leader giving their commencement address.

But that’s not all. Might it be possible that these students themselves are being persecuted by their own government to keep to their government’s rhetoric? We have no way of knowing, but it is possible. They have loved ones back home. What pressure could be brought to bear upon those families if their members studying in the United States go off-message?

It’s something to think about before we rush to denounce the students’ behavior.

That said, it is my hope that UC-San Diego’s administrators will not capitulate to these students’ demands. It is a great honor for the 14th Dalai Lama to speak at the University, a rare and precious opportunity, considering that the Dalai Lama is in his eighties now. There will be so few chances in the future for us to be gifted with this man’s wisdom and message of peace, so I hope that UC-San Diego will stand firm. Are not teachers supposed to be wiser than their students?