The Dalai Lama#8217s commencement address at the University of California, San Diego this weekend has stirred some controversy on a campus where 12.5% of the students are from China.

A total of 50,000 tickets for the Dalai Lama#8217s two speeches on campus mdash a public address on Friday and a commencement address on Saturday mdash sold out within hours, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. But more than 3,500 students at the university are Chinese citizens, and the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) at the university raised objections to the Dalai Lama#8217s selection soon after it was announced earlier this year.

Chinese government officials view the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as a #8220separatist,#8221 accusing him of spurring division because he previously advocated for full Tibetan independence. Chinese officials also objected to former President Obama#8217s meeting with the Dalai Lama last year. In a 2014 interview with TIME, the Dalai Lama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, said he wants to reach a middle ground with China. ldquoWe are not seeking independence,rdquo he said. ldquoWe are seeking general autonomy.rdquo

A statement by the CSSA in February argued that the Dalai Lama has had a divisive influence in Chinese politics. In response, the International Campaign for Tibet accused the student group of #8220doing the work of the Chinese government.#8221

UC San Diego student Ruixuan Wang wrote an op-ed for the student newspaper in February that voiced the views of those who oppose the speaker.

#8220Commencement is a landmark of our life. Our family members are coming all the way from China, flying for more than 10 hours to celebrate with us. The Dalai Lama, as a political icon, is viewed differently in our country,#8221 Wang wrote. #8220We want to spend a fantastic time with our family during the commencement, but his presence will ruin our joy. What we want to say is that objectively, he will be an excellent speaker for the commencement. Nonetheless, culturally speaking, his selection to be a presenter is inappropriate in such a situation, considering how many Chinese students and their families are going to attend this commencement.#8221

But the university has stood by its decision to host the Dalai Lama, who previously visited the school in 2012.

#8220A man of peace, the Dalai Lama promotes global responsibility and service to humanity,#8221 Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla said in a statement. #8220These are the ideals we aim to convey and instill in our students and graduates at UC San Diego.rdquo

During his speech on Friday, the Dalai Lama called for mutual respect and understanding.


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