Sonam contacts about fifty or so people every day and says that half are willing to chat and five or six want to talk in depth. He now has 200 “old friends” to whom he sends information on the Dalai Lama to circumvent China’s “Great Firewall”, which blocks websites about the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. “We don’t say this is right or wrong, or that the Chinese Government should be overthrown,” Sonam told The Times. “We just give people an alternative source of information.”
The aim of the project is bold: to change attitudes towards Tibet among ordinary Chinese in the hope that they will gradually shape Beijing’s policies. Sonam and his colleagues can talk to only a tiny fraction of China’s 300 million netizens — who are notoriously nationalistic. Arguably it offers better prospects, and more immediate results, than the failed negotiations between China and the Dalai Lama, who fled to India 50 years ago yesterday.