Dalai Lama using Twitter to skirt censorship and talk to the Chinese
Today, Tibet’s spiritual leader goes on Twitter for an hour with a dissident Chinese writer. He will answer some 260 questions to tell his side of the Tibet story. In China, the authorities have blocked the social networking and micro-blogging service; however, about 80,000 Chinese internet users have been able to get around it.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, will hold his first online chat today with Chinese web users via Twitter, bypassing Chinese censorship to explain his views.

He will hold an hour-long session between 8 and 9 am (EST) in New York on the Twitter account of Chinese writer Wang Lixiong, who has long been a critic of Beijing’s policies in Tibet.

This is the first time that the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate takes part in an event of this length of time by way of a tool also used by US President Barack Obama for his online town-hall meetings.

Mainland authorities blocked Twitter in mid-2009, but some 80,000 mainlanders have managed to circumvent the ‘Great Firewall of China’ and skirt government internet censorship.

In the meantime, the Dalai Lama recently got his own Twitter account. And by yesterday afternoon, Google Moderator had selected more than 260 questions—mostly in Chinese and submitted from the mainland—from nearly 12,000 people.

During the chat, Wang will ask the spiritual leader some of the most frequently asked questions that are of interest to the Chinese. Among them are those about Tibet's future and the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.

The latter is important because Chinese authorities have taken into custody the real Panchen Lama, whose function is to choose the Dalai Lama’s successor. Presently, his whereabouts remain unknown.

In China, the Dalai Lama is described as a dangerous separatist and terrorist, and his statements are routinely censored. Hence, he is hopeful that Twitter will enable him to explain his points of view directly to the Chinese.

"Over the years, only the official scenario of the Tibet problem exists inside China, and this unquestionably makes it difficult [for the Chinese people] to know the truth of the issue,” Wang wrote in the letter, which was posted on his blog.

In fact, some of the questions are basic; for instance, one person asked, “The dialogues between the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Chinese Communist Party have been going on for ten years without yielding any result. What are the major sources of divergence?”

The Tibet question became front-page news in March 2008 when the Chinese cracked down on Tibetan protesters, killing more than 200 people.

At the time, Chinese repression led to worldwide protests in conjunction with the passage of the Olympic torch on its way to Beijing.

In order to undermine the criticism and prevent a boycott of the Games, the Chinese government said it would engage in a dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama.

As soon as the Olympics ended, so did the dialogue.