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Pro-Tibet Ball State professor says he's harassed in San Francisco

April 11, 2008

Muncie Star Press, IN
Thursday, April 10, 2008

MUNCIE -- A Ball State University professor who is president of the
International Tibet Independence Movement (ITIM) says he's been followed,

photographed and harassed by Chinese people during his trip to San
Francisco this week.

Larry Gerstein was helping coordinate demonstrations against China's
rule of Tibet as the torch for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing passed

San Francisco on Wednesday.

"The Chinese are provoking us," Gerstein said in a telephone interview
from San Francisco, which has a large Asian population. "They have been

provoking us since we showed up this morning.
"We have a permit for a particular area. They infiltrated our space and
refused to leave. Finally, the police escorted them out."

Gerstein and his group are smack in the middle of a heated international
debate over China and the summer Games.

In order to get the Olympics, Beijing promised to improve on its human
rights record. But recent violent demonstrations in Tibet, which China

as its sovereign territory, have spurred protesters to disrupt the
traditional torch relay and for many to call for an Olympic boycott, a
sentiment not

shared by the Dali Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.

To ensure the security of the torch and its relay runners, San Francisco
authorities had to reroute Wednesday's ceremony away from thousands of

demonstrators and spectators who crowded the city's waterfront to
witness the flame's symbolic journey.

Meanwhile, when Gerstein left the house he was staying at Wednesday
morning, he said "a block away from where we left there was a Chinese

photographer with professional equipment snapping our pictures."

For the past several weeks, Gerstein, whose organization maintains the
Web site, has received 50 to 60 attack e-mails a day.

"It looks like good e-mail from somebody I know, but it's not," he said.
"It's viruses, spam.

"But this thing last night with the cell phones was something we'd never
experienced before. They somehow infiltrated people's cell phones and for

hours were calling. You pick up the phone and you hear gunshots and
Tibetans screaming and Chinese saying all kinds of vicious, hateful
things. It

was non-stop. Non-stop."

According to an Associated Press story, pro-Tibet and pro-China groups
were given side-by-side permits to demonstrate in San Francisco, and

representatives from both sides "spilled from their sanctioned sites
across a major street and shouted at each other nose to nose, with no

police presence to separate them."

"A lot of Tibetan people are getting killed," said Kunga Yeshi, 18, who
had traveled to San Francisco from Salt Lake City. "The Chinese said they'd

change if they got the Olympics, but they still won't change."

On the other side was Yi Che, who said he was "proud to be Chinese" and
was "outraged because there are so many people who are so ignorant

they don't know Tibet is part of China. It was and is and will forever
be part of China."

For its part, Gerstein's group is trying to get several messages out,

# China's occupation of Tibet needs to end soon.

# The Olympic torch should not be taken through Tibet, given the
uprising and violence that have already broken out there. "It will
really provoke

the Tibetans by taking the torch through."

# "We'd like President Bush to not attend the opening ceremony."

Gerstein is an author, researcher, editor and a professor of counseling
psychology and guidance services at Ball State, where he is also
director of

the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, which teaches non-violent
action from leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and the

Lama (Tibet's exiled spiritual leader).

"We have prepared for the last couple of days by teaching people
strategies on civil disobedience and non-violence when faced with

Gerstein said.

After graduating from Bernard Baruch College in New York in 1974,
Gerstein earned his master's and doctorate from the University of Georgia.

"I've been studying Asia and Buddhism since I was a teenager," he said.
"In 1988 or so, I happened to go to a talk given by the Dali Lama's oldest

brother, who lives in Bloomington. I was really moved by the story he
was sharing and wanted to get to know him. I started going to Bloomington,

and he asked me to get politically involved."

About 10 years ago, Gerstein co-founded ITIM.

The prospects for resolution of the disagreement between Tibet and China
are improving, Gerstein said, as more world leaders stand up to China.

"The Dali Lama does not want independence for Tibet," said BSU professor
George Wolfe. "He wants cultural autonomy, meaning he wants them to

be able to practice their religion and so forth. But he has no
objections to them being part of China."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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