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Protesters Disrupt Address by Chinese Ambassador Xie Feng at Harvard Kennedy School Event

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School often hosts politicians and scholars. An address at the forum by Xie Feng, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, was interrupted by protesters on Saturday morning.
The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School often hosts politicians and scholars. An address at the forum by Xie Feng, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, was interrupted by protesters on Saturday morning. By Julian J. Giordano
By Dhruv T. Patel, Crimson Staff Writer

Updated April 22, 2024, at 12:09 p.m.

Six people disrupted an address by Xie Feng, the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, at the Harvard Kennedy School Saturday morning to protest China’s stance on Tibet, Hong Kong, East Turkestan, and Taiwan.

Xie was delivering the opening address for the Kennedy School’s China Conference — an annual student-run event organized by the Greater China Society — when protesters stood up one at a time, shouting and holding Tibetan flags and banners reading “China Lies, People Die.”

The protest, which was organized by Students for a Free Tibet and Coalition of Students Resisting China, delayed Xie’s address and included roughly 35 protesters who stood outside the Kennedy School with Tibetan flags and signs denouncing “colonial boarding schools” in Tibet.

The protesters outside HKS were both Harvard students and local residents of the Boston area.

Cosette T. Wu ’25, co-founder of Coalition of Students Resisting the CCP and the first protester to interrupt the talk, said Xie’s past actions stand “in direct contradiction to our values and Harvard’s values.”

“These types of viewpoints should not have any place in the Harvard community,” Wu added. “We are not going to allow somebody who has had such a huge goal in advocating for a genocidal government and enacting such significant human rights abuses.”

Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, condemned the protest in a statement to The Crimson, writing that the protestors’ actions “were unanimously opposed by the guests, faculty members, and students present.”

“Facts cannot be distorted. The farce put up by anti-China forces to discredit China and undermine China-U.S. relations is doomed to failure,” Liu added.

Harvard University Police Department spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote in a statement that HUPD officers escorted out five protesters after they refused to stop disrupting the talk.

Catalano wrote that three of the protesters escorted out by officers were Harvard students, and HUPD intends to share the students’ names with their respective schools.

The sixth protester walked out during Xie’s speech but was not logged by HUPD, Wu wrote in a message.

Tsering Yangchen ’26, co-president of the Boston chapter of Students for a Free Tibet, said in a press release that her “family escaped Tibet because China had massacred tens of thousands of Tibetans during the CCP’s military invasion and colonization of my homeland.”

“Xie Feng is an advocate for the genocide of my people and, as a Tibetan Harvard student, it’s my duty to show the world the truth,” Yangchen added.

Angela Hu, an audience member who witnessed the disruption, said that though she was not on “anyone’s side,” she thought the interruption was “certainly not an educated behavior.”

“I’m actually not really interested in who’s talking and who’s interrupting,” Hu added. “It’s more like, you should have the common courtesy.”

Yangchen said it is “very important to highlight” that “the CCP is a genocidal regime.”

“I believe we were successful,” she added. “We made our voices heard.”

Correction: April 22, 2024

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that all six protesters who disrupted the talk by Chinese Ambassador Xie Feng were current and former Harvard College students. In fact, only some of the protesters were College students.

—Staff writer Dhruv T. Patel can be reached at dhruv.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @dhruvtkpatel.

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