Campaign and Impact

Say No to Confucius Institute

Say No to CI – Confucius Institute

Make no mistake: the innocent sounding “Confucius Institutes” in the UK’s universities and colleges threaten academic freedom and free speech.

They are controlled by the Chinese Government and are a central part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) soft power plan to improve the global view of China’s authoritarian system. 

Confucius Institutes aim to censor and silence discussions on important political and human rights issues like Tibet, East Turkestan, Taiwan, Falun Gong and Tiananmen Square.

A leading UK human rights group led by Fiona Bruce MP produced an in-depth report into the Confucius Institutes in the country and concluded “we welcome and encourage language teaching and cultural exchange, but we believe a review is necessary to assess whether Confucius Institutes represent a threat to academic freedom, freedom of expression, other basic rights and indeed national security”.

What are Confucius Institutes?
Confucius Institutes are educational programs backed by China’s Ministry of Education to develop partnerships in educational institutions outside China. Their stated aim is “to promote Chinese language and culture in our schools and universities”.

What is the threat of the Confucius Institutes?
Chinese government censorship and propaganda on topics such as Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen are reaching our students in high schools and universities all over the world.  The above human rights report warned that “the evidence we received raises very serious questions about the influence which Confucius Institutes may have in British universities and schools”.

The report mentioned that, in view of its suspect activities and malign influence, at least 27 universities and academic institutions around the world have cut ties with the Confucius Institute – a list which includes such high profile centres of learning as the University of Chicago, McMaster University, Toronto School Board and the Copenhagen Business School. 

The truth about the Confucius Institutes is that they are China’s soft power push inside our schools and universities.
Over 530 Chinese government-backed Confucius Institutes are making an insidious attempt to restrict academic freedom by silencing debate on human rights and other sensitive issues and whitewash its atrocious human rights records in Tibet and China. 

According to the CCP reports, In United Kingdom, there are more the 30 Confucius institutes:

What can I do?
Here at SFT (UK), we are actively campaigning to increase awareness in UK universities, colleges and schools of the underlying agenda of the Confucius Institute organisation – as a propaganda mouthpiece of the dictatorship in China. We want to tell the truth about China’s occupation of Tibet and its brutality – not just to Tibetans but to the Uyghurs and people in Hong Kong and within China itself; the CCP`s threats to Taiwan and its aggressive plans for expansion in the South and East China Seas.

We aim to encourage supporters to set up SFT-UK groups in as many of the universities and colleges as we can where there are Confucius Institutes – to counteract the propaganda of the Chinese state.

If you are interested to find out more about setting up an SFT group at your college, university, school or in the community, please read the section on our website “how to set up an SFT group”. And you can contact us for advice and support. It’s not difficult!

Victory over Google’s planned link-up with the CCP-approved search engine in China

We are delighted to report a recent success!

Google had been making secretive plans to launch a search engine “suitable” for the Chinese market in China by forming a partnership with the Chinese government.

The plan was known as ‘Project Dragonfly’ and its existence was leaked to the outside world by Google staff who were alarmed at what they saw as Google compromising its high ideals to do a dirty deal with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to gain access to the Chinese market. This brought Google’s plan to the attention of human rights activists and Tibet campaigners throughout the world. 

With justification from the CCP’s past track record, it was feared that any Google search engine approved by the authorities in China would offer the dictatorship a new way to capture data and track down the people who used it – enabling the CCP to get information on Tibet related and human rights issues in China.

To make matters worse, this search engine would likely provide false and misleading information on those issues related to Tibet, the Uyghurs, Taiwan, Hong Kong and of course, including Chinese human rights activists. 

On the 19th June 2019, Students for a Free Tibet UK (SFT-UK) joined with the Free Tibet organisation to protest outside Google’s UK HQ in London to call on them to abandon Project Dragonfly. It was also an important way to reach out to Google staff in the UK, many whom were unaware of the project. We wanted to pressure Google to respect the fundamental rights of people in China and uphold the values and principles of the company. To work for benefit of humanity – and not to act as a willing accessory to the terrible human rights abuses that are such a feature of life inside China.

The 19th June protest was the latest in a series of campaigning activities that had been going on for several months. In cities around the world, pro-Tibet campaigners had been working in partnership with Chinese human right defenders and Uyghur activists.

Our efforts paid off! In a major success for the cause of human rights in China and Tibet, Google publicly confirmed in June 2019 that, after all, they had “no plans to offer a search engine in China”. 

Furthermore, during a shareholder’s meeting in San Francisco in June 2019, Google’s CEO stated that ‘censorship free internet’ would be an important condition for them to operate in China. 

Sometimes, it is easy to feel downhearted in our struggle against such a powerful force as the CCP – but an important victory like this gives us wonderful encouragement to keep campaigning. JOY!

Free Tashi Wangduk 

Tibetan shopkeeper, Tashi Wangchuk, 31, was detained on 27th January 2016, after appearing in a New York Times video in which he advocated for the rights of Tibetans to learn and study in their mother tongue. On May 22, 2018, he was sentenced to five years in prison for the charge of “inciting separatism.”

Tashi began voicing concern publicly about the lack of Tibetan-language education after the authorities in Kyekudo, (Yushu in Chinese) stopped local monasteries and a private school in the area from teaching Tibetan to laypeople, according to the Times

In a  2016 New York Times mini-documentary, Wangchuk solemnly confided, “I can feel my ability to use and understand Tibetan language slipping away.” 

The documentary appealed for the protection of Tibetan language rights within the framework of the Chinese constitution and legal system.

Following his interview with the New York Times, Wangchuk was secretly detained on 27th January 2016. For 56 long days after his arrest, his family had no information on his whereabouts. Tashi Wangchuk did not stand trial until January 2018, spending almost two years behind bars after his arrest. His eventual trial took place behind closed doors—journalists and foreign diplomats who showed up to the court in an attempt to observe the proceedings were denied entry. On 22nd May 2018, he was sentenced to five years in prison for the charge of “inciting separatism.” Tashi appealed his sentence, but on 13th August 2018, China rejected the arguments made by him and his lawyer.

Here at SFT-UK, we are supporting the world-wide campaign for his release.

Where is the Panchen Lama?  

In 1995 Chinese officials kidnapped him. He was just 6 years old and became the worlds youngest political prisoner. 25 years later, Tibetans continue to demand for the Panchen Lama to be released and returned to the people of Tibet. China claims he is living a normal life, but they refuse to disclose where he is being held and refuse anyone access to him. 

After the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama is the most holy Tibetan spiritual leader.

On 14th May 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, aged six, was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet. Three days later on the 17th May, he and his family went missing. Their whereabouts are still unknown.

A year later, in May 1996, the Chinese government admitted for the first time that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family were under “protection.”

On the 8th April 2011, the United Nations’ Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances publicly stated: “They (the Chinese authorities) have continually refused to divulge any information about him or his whereabouts, making his case an enforced disappearance.”

The abduction of the Panchen Lama provides a preview of China’s plan to interfere in the eventual reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Shortly after Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s abduction, the Chinese government installed another young boy, Gyaincain Norbu, in his place. For many years this puppet Panchen Lama was kept hidden, but for the past few years, Chinese authorities have used Gyaltsen Norbu as a mouthpiece for their propaganda campaign against the Dalai Lama.

Tibetans continue to revere Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (the true Panchen Lama) as a strong figure for Tibetan identity and nationhood. In June of 2012, Jigme Dolma, just 17-years-old, took to the streets in Tibet issuing flyers and shouting slogans for the release of the Panchen Lama. She was severely beaten and handed a 3-year prison sentence.

His Holiness the Panchen Lama turned 30 years of age on 25th April 2019. This should have been an occasion of great celebration for Tibetans everywhere; but instead it was marked by protest and with sadnessas the Panchen Lama had been a prisoner of the Chinese government for more than 25 years. The 17th May 2020 marked 25 years of his enforced disappearance. 

SFT Works and Impacts

We stand with Hong Kong

SFT UK National Conference
TSG’s Meeting with Sikyong

Longsho Nite

(Longsho is a Tibetan word, which means risen for freedom)


Celebrating 25 years of Students for a Free Tibet

On September 21st 2019, Students for a Free Tibet UK held ‘Longsho Nite’, an event celebrating Students for a Tibet’s 25th anniversary. 

25 years ago, in New York City, a small group of Tibetans and Tibet-supporters came together to bring Students for a Free Tibet to life. Since our founding, SFT (Students for a Free Tibet) has grown into a formidable force against the Goliath of Chinese occupation of Tibet and its oppressive rule. Today, we have hundreds of high school’s, universities, and community chapters around the world taking action for freedom and human rights for Tibet.” Dorjee Tsetan, Executive Director, SFT HQ.  

We celebrated the 25 years legacy of SFT in Tibetan political movements and its achievements in nurturing hundreds of Tibet freedom fighters. Direct 

The event was a spectacular success and was only made possible with everyone’s involvement. It was one of our biggest parties yet. We had great artists, guests of honours and large crowds. 

All of SFT UK would like to thank all the volunteers and helpers who gave their precious time to help us prepare before, during and after the event. A thank you to all our special guests, supporters, our brilliant Lhakar appreciation awardees, the Tibetan community, all those who attended and of course, all the talented performers who made the whole evening memorable! We deeply appreciate the support and encouragement you have all given us. With your continued backing, we have to continue the work in furthering the just cause of Tibet. 

SFT UK National Conference

22/11/2019 – 23/11/2019

SFT UK’s annual conference, held on the 22nd-23rd of November, is a two day training programme giving participants an overview of the basic principles in grassroots organising. For this conference, we invite leaders from the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe, the president from SFT France and the SFT HQ campaign director Pena Doma. This event is valuable in meeting up with youth activists around the world and discussing future collaborations.   

Our most recent conference, in 2019 was a big success. The two days were filled with brilliant and insightful talks, workshops, and trainings, plus great music and dance. A big thank you to all our guest panellists and workshop leaders: Professor Dibyesh Anand; Kunsang Kelden; Promod Tandan; Darig Thokmay; co-Presidents of Tibetan Youth Association in Europe, Jigme Adotsang and Paelden Dhargye; SFT-France National Director, Yangkey Dolkar; SFT International Grassroots Director, Pema Doma; and former SFT-UK National Director, Ellen Lees. 

We’d also like to extend our gratitude to Ngawang Lodup-la and Tenzin Samphel-la for providing such wonderful entertainment in our concluding ceremony. Also a big thank you to all the participants and to SFT-Westminster for hosting the conference. 

Interaction with Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration

Organized by Tibet house Trust, Students for a Free Tibet UK’s national director Drukthar Gyal, and campaigns manager Dorjee Dhondup, joined the other Tibetan Support groups in the United Kingdom (Tibetan community in Britain, Free tibet, Tibet Society and international campaign for Tibet) to meet with President Dr. Lobsang Sangay. Lobsang Sangay is a Tibetan politician who is the Sikyong (President) of the Tibetan-government-in-exile, officially known as Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 

Tiananmen Square Massacre


On June 4th, outside the Chinese Embassy London, SFT UK organised a peaceful vigil in remembrance of  the Tiananmen Square Massacre. We stood alongside Chinese human right defenders, including Dr. Shao Jang, who is a survivor of the Tiananmen Massacres 1989.

“In Beijing on Tuesday, there were only hints of the violence that engulfed the city 30 years ago. Security on the square was tight, and Chinese social media services were censored more vigorously than normal.” – This is in reference the security around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on the anniversary of the massacre 2019.

Some artists and intellectuals in the mainland have tried to speak out about the anniversary. Accepting an award last week at the Palace Museum, situated across from the square in Beijing, the artist Zhang Yue spoke onstage about how he was “ashamed” to have had to make concessions to censorship in his artwork.

Free Panchen Lama


On May 17th, the Tibetan community in Britain organised a special vigil outside the chinese embassy to commemorate the 24th year since the 11th Panchen Lama’s abduction. Tibetan community in Britain were joined by SFT UK, Free Tibet and Tibetan supporters. 

The Panchen Lama was just six years old when he was kidnapped by the Chinese authorities in 1995. He has been missing ever since. International campaigns urging for accurate information about his well-being, his whereabouts and calling for his release continue. 

Since his disappearance in 1995, the Chinese government has repeatedly dismissed requests for his release and for a full disclosure about the Panchen Lama’s location and well-being.

Revival of SFT UK

SFT HQ has revived their UK network and we’re back with a new team of board members. For those of you who have stuck by SFT-UK for all these years, and for those relatively new to its work, we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves and to thank you for your support. 

A quick update-
Our first team meetup and workshop took place over homemade momos (Tibetan dish) in late April 2018. We were pleased to have Pema Yoko (SFT-UK advisor and former SFT Deputy Director) guide us for the whole day. We benefited greatly from her presentation on SFT- its work, campaigns, mission and values. We are also very grateful to Ellen Lees (former SFT-UK national director) for giving us a workshop on team building and an introduction to grassroots activism; and to Dorjee Tseten-la (SFT executive director) with whom we had a video conference and she  spoke about SFT’s specific campaigns. A massive thank you to all three who gave us sound advice and a boost of encouragement moving forward.

With our first team meeting all done, we’ve planned some exciting stuff for this year and will keep you all updated. Do keep a lookout too!

Unity is strength. Therefore, we really appreciate your support in enhancing the important role that SFT plays in promoting the just cause of Tibet and the Tibetan people. Thank you and please continue to spread the word.

Film screening and discussion on: In the name of Confucius

12 / 06/ 2018

 SFT Westminster University chapter in England concluded a successful film screening and discussion on the threats and concerns of China’s Confucius Institutes in schools around the world. The guest panel included Doris Liu (Director of the film “In the Name of Confucius”), Shao Jiang (activist in the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China and former political prisoner) and Pema Yoko (former SFT Deputy Director). 

If you would like to organize a film screening or discussion on Confucius Institutes on your campus or in your community, please email us at


Meet Anna and Drukthar, co-presidents of SFT Westminster. After attending an SFT conference, they launched a chapter at their school. They have the most amazing passion and energy for the movement. Anna and Drukthar, thank you for your commitment to Tibet! We’re so excited to see you build your chapter at Westminster. 

#SFTfam “At the SFT conference in Pestalozzi, engaging with enthusiastic and engaged students, we realized we have the capability to do something impactful for Tibet. To go beyond the usual discussions and ideas, to actually raise awareness and actively campaign for Tibet. In a world which increasingly acknowledges China’s power, it is important to raise a voice for Tibet, for self-determination rights of the colonized, for Rangzen.”

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