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03/09/94

CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558

Geology graduate student a 'Stanford Friend of Tibet'

STANFORD -- When he first went to Tibet in 1988, Ed Sobel was a budding geology student with a love of travel. He left the country with some sobering memories of violence and repression.

"What I saw in Tibet really affected me," said Sobel, now a sixth-year graduate student studying sedimentary geology at Stanford University.

"At one point, I was watching an opera performance at a festival in Gyantse. Some people were sitting in the audience, some were standing, and when the standing people wanted to get closer to the stage, the police began hitting them over the heads with leather belts. It didn't seem like a good way to run a country."

Returning for graduate study at Stanford, Sobel became involved with the activist group Bay Area Friends of Tibet. Two years later, he and some fellow students and alumni founded Stanford Friends of Tibet, which works to educate local communities about the cultural life and political troubles in the country.

Recent campus events sponsored by the group have included a performance of sacred music by Tibetan monks, a video film festival and a letter-writing campaign protesting the U.S. plan to grant most-favored-nation trading status for China.

"Stanford students are not as informed as they could be about Tibet's situation. Most of them know where Tibet is, but not why it has such problems," Sobel said.

"Everyone knows what happened in Kuwait. What happened in Tibet with China is very similar, except that China has a billion people waiting to drink Coca-Cola, so our government doesn't do so much about it."

Stanford Friends of Tibet has tentatively planned a number of events to mark the Dalai Lama's visit to campus April 19- 20. Among them:

  • A workshop on the transfer of Chinese populations into Tibet, part of an Overseas Development Network conference on "Migration and Sustainable Development" on April 9;
  • A performance by Chaksam-pa, the Tibetan San Francisco Opera Company, at noon Monday, March 14, in White Plaza;
  • A candlelight vigil for Tibetan nuns who were imprisoned after a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa, at a time and place to be announced;
  • A film festival featuring Song for Tibet and Satya: A Prayer for the Enemy at 7 p.m. Monday, April 18, in Cubberley Auditorium;
  • A panel discussion on whether human rights should be linked to trade negotiations, at a time and place to be announced.

More information is available from Sobel at 723-7169, or by electronic mail at wardo@pangea.Stanford.edu.

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