The Free Dorje Campaign: A Timeline

15 05 2013

Free Dorje Gurung

Dorje Gurung , a chemistry teacher from Nepal who had been teaching at an international school in Qatar, was jailed on 1 May, 2013 on charges of insulting Islam.

When news of this broke on Thursday, 9 May, Dorje’s friends and contacts quickly came to his support.

What ensued was four days of frantic, energised, round-the-clock campaigning.

Then, on Monday, 13 May, Dorje was released from jail.

How was international pressure built up so quickly and effectively? How did the campaign evolve? What was done, at what time and to what effect?

Piecing together bits and pieces all over the social media trail — Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Change.Org and news reports —  this timeline attempts to tell the story of the international Free Dorje campaign.

Read the timeline HERE

You can also click on each of the photo below, then enlarge and scroll along.

The International Free Dorje Campaign

Note: There was a lot of equally important ‘behind the scenes’ action that is not documented here. Many people worked tirelessly, tapping into Dorje’s different networks, working around the clock to follow news from Doha and Nepal, contacting international organisations and media outlets, pulling together updates and ideas from people on different platforms, sifting through ideas, pursuing credible sources and venues of appeal, and constantly communicating with each other to avoid the duplication of efforts. 

 

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Free Dorje Gurung

12 05 2013

URGENT: FREE DORJE GURUNG

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Dorje Gurung, a chemistry teacher who has taught all over the world (Hong Kong, Norway, the USA, Azerbaijan, Malawi and Qatar) has been jailed in Qatar on charges of insulting Islam.

 

I believe that a grave injustice has been done. 

 

 

 

Because he is Nepali, some 12 year old students were making fun of him, stereotyping.

 

Among other things, the seventh graders poked fun at his appearance, calling him “Jackie Chan,” a famous Chinese actor, the Washington Post reported.

 

He asked a rhetorical question, and they reported it as a statement. Now he is in jail for insulting Islam.

 

This is a petition to free Dorje Gurung. Please sign it. Then share and get the word out.

 

SIGN THIS PETITION

 https://www.change.org/petitions/government-of-qatar-release-dorje-gurung

 

‘LIKE’ THIS FACEBOOK PAGE

http://www.facebook.com/FreeDorjeGurung?fref=ts

 

TUMBLR : FOR MORE INFORMATION, LINKS,  ACTION PLAN AND MORE

http://freedorje.tumblr.com

 

Dorge is a United World Colleges alumni and embodies the UWC ideals: respect, compassion, mutual responsibility, integrity, the celebration of difference.

I stand for and believe in the UWC values. I will not stand for injustice.

Sign the petition: for Dorje’s freedom and for justice.

 

Free Dorje Gurung  

 





The Story of a Rooftop Farm

7 10 2012

I’ve been working as an editorial intern at the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times. Here’s my article on rooftop farming in Hong Kong, published on the the IHT and NYT on 4th October 2012 — coincidentally, the IHT’s 125th anniversary! 

Osbert Lam, owner of the rooftop operation City Farm, on his daily watering round.

In Organic-Hungry Hong Kong, Corn as High as an Elevator’s Climb

HONG KONG — Kimbo Chan knows all about the food scandals in China: the formaldehyde that is sometimes sprayed on Chinese cabbages, the melamine in the milk and the imitation soy sauce made from hair clippings. That is why he is growing vegetables on a rooftop high above the crowded streets of Hong Kong.

“Some mainland Chinese farms even buy industrial chemicals to use on their crops,” Mr. Chan said. “Chemicals not meant for agricultural uses at all.”

As millions of Hong Kong consumers grow increasingly worried about the purity and safety of the fruits, vegetables, meats and processed foods coming in from mainland China, more of them are striking out on their own by tending tiny plots on rooftops, on balconies and in far-flung, untouched corners of highly urbanized Hong Kong.

Continue reading here.

Also related to this article is my IHT Rendezvous blog post:

Up on the Roof, a Real-Life Farmville

HONG KONG — Imagine yourself on a sidewalk in the center of a crowded city. It’s summer, the afternoon rush hour, you’re surrounded by buses, cars and delivery trucks, and they’re blasting you with waves of hot, nasty exhaust fumes.

Now imagine stepping away from that chaotic scene, ducking into an elevator and riding up a few dozen floors where you emerge to find a green oasis of vegetables and flowers — a rooftop farm.

You can continue reading here.

The rooftop farm at night. In the background hang colourful lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival.





C is for Chaos

24 05 2012

TEDxMongKok: chaos.

Chaos Strikes TEDxMongKok!

But not to worry – something good came out of it: ideas worth spreading.

C is for Chaos, but it’s also for choice, consumption, creativity, control, challenge, change, community, crowd-sourcing, and construction. In a world of confusion and mayhem (and might I add, a world that is supposed to end this year), TEDxMongKok today posed the very crucial question: how can we thrive if the new world order is chaos? Together, speakers, participants, organisers and volunteers all searched for the elusive answer.

Let’s start with the first C: choice.

What role will choices play in a world defined by chaos?
Dr Sheena Iyengar enlightened us all with a most fascinating talk about choices.  Here’s what stood out for me from her presentation:

  • Something to think about: How many decisions do we make a day – small decisions, large decisions, quick decisions, slow decisions?
  • Leadership and choices:Leaders today have to make decisions all the time, day in day out – but are they making the right choices? In today’s complex world, it’s no longer about economies of scale, but rather economies of networks. To manage complexity, we need good leaders who can make good choices.
  • Today’s three leadership problems: 1) What should be done? 2) What information is needed? 3) Who can help me, who can I help?
  • Information overload: the information overload we are experiencing is the equivalent of 174 newspapers a day. Yep. The question is,  how can we best use human social and institutional capital to make the best decisions?
  • Networks: How did Mark Zuckerberg go from a socially awkward guy to a multibillionaire? He understood networks. Leaders today are the DNA of their networks – so the importance of making good choices is all the greater.

As I make my choices from now on, I’ll consciously be asking myself – how have I arrived at making this choice? Have I used enough information to make my choice? Am I leveraging networks in making this choice?

China: what’s her place in a world of chaos?
Zhang Lijia 
then posed the question, what’s China’s place in the world today? The most memorable snippet from her deeply personal presentation was her reminder that much of the fear over China’s relentless rise is understandable, and yet much of it is also due to ignorance. To understand China, one must think out of the box. So let’s educate ourselves about China, approach it with an open mind, and acknowledge that China – whether we like it or not – is here to stay in today’s chaotic world. Whether she can make the world less chaotic or worsen the chaos remains to be seen…

A monk, a hippie and a baby. Chaotic combo? Not if you’re at TEDxMongKok!

Chaos of Consumption
Consumption. We all need it. We need to consume to survive. And yet this word has gathered so much negativity that it has evolved to carry connotations of gluttony, greed, selfish indulgence. Chandran Nair very perceptively presented us with a paradox: Asian countries have been urged to consume to boost the world economy, and yet are slammed for skyrocketing emissions. What does this say about the consumption-driven growth model?

  • The consumption model is outdated. It shaped the 19th and 20th centuries, but the 21st century is desperately calling for a new model.
  • 4 major trends of the 21st century: 1) the human population peaking 2) CO2 levels reaching unprecedented heights 3) technology everywhere 4) the old economic model crumbling….together these four trends mean that we can no longer rely on consumption.
  • Resource management as the center of all policy making. Asia needs a new model – not the consumption model, but one that is real, that manages limited resources, and that strengthens the state – because only governments can effectively do sustainability.

The 8th Mass Medium
We started with print, recordings, cinema, radio, TV, internet and mobile as the 7 mass mediums. What’s the eighth going to be? Tomi Ahonen  proposes that is is augmented reality. He raised a very interesting point about the advance of mobile technology: back in the 60s NASA used computer power to launch shuttles…today we use the iPhone to launch Angry Birds! Mobile has exploded (in a good way) – now it’s time for augmented reality to trot along. Some questions that I asked myself during the presentation:

  • How will augmented reality redefine the world?
  • Will augmented reality really redefine the world?
  • If so, will augmented interfere with our intellectual sovereignty?

It’s all a bit abstract for the moment, but I’ll make sure to keep an eye on the development of augmented reality.

Work
Brr…don’t we love that wonderful word. Work. In fact, we spend an average of 81,000 hours at work in our lifetime. So we’d better work on something we love then, hadn’t we? Jared King gave us a shocking statistic: only 20% of us are actively engaged in work. There is an absolute epidemic of boredom at work – and this is a problem. Time and resources are being wasted. More importantly, talent is being wasted.

“The most wasted resource on earth is talent” – Jared King

What we need, therefore, is a way to revolutionise the concept of work, to re-engineer the world of work, to change the way we work in order to effect good, positive results. The secret to great work, says Jared, is to find that sweetspot between chaos and control.

Dancers flood the stage, disrupting Professor Kay Ottik’s (get it?) ‘presentation’. It’s all part of the chaos!

CONCLUSION

I couldn’t stay for the entire conference, but here’s the conclusion I’ve drawn from today’s stimulating presentations:

CHOICES, CONSUMPTION, CREATION, CONSTRUCTION, CHANGE.

CHAOS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE DESTRUCTIVE IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS TO CONTROL AND CONTAIN IT.

FROM CHAOS CAN EMERGE CALM.





Graduation Dinner Speech 2012

14 04 2012

Note: When I was asked over a month ago to make a speech at Graduation Dinner, I had no idea what to talk about. Was I supposed to try and reflect the sentiments of the whole year group? To recount all that we have done together in two years? In the end I decided to talk about one of the most important things I’ve learnt in my two wondrous years here at Li Po Chun United World College. (I’ve adapted this speech from an essay I’d written earlier: ‘A Wrong Turn… That Saved My Life“)

Graduation Dinner Speech

I’d like to tell you a story.

It’s Boxing Day, December 2004. My family and I are on vacation in Thailand. It was Boxing Day, December 2004.  After a leisurely breakfast I had decided to head back to my room to fetch my beachwear. The route was straightforward enough: down a flight of stairs, then a right turn to the seaside, where our room was. I had walked this route multiple times before – no problem. And yet for reasons which I do not think I will ever know, I subconsciously and unknowingly made a wrong turn. Instead of turning right, I turned left: away from my room, away from the sea. And away from fatal danger.

For it was only minutes later, while I wandered around hopelessly lost, that the devastating waves of a tsunami came crashing down on the resort – waves which would have engulfed me, knocked me out and killed me with ruthless force. And yet miraculously, the waves did not hit me. I was safe because I had turned left, away from the beach. I was safe because I had made a wrong turn.

Back then, the gravity of it all eluded me. It seemed like dumb luck: I had had a 50-50 chance between life and death, and my bad sense of direction had nudged me towards the better of the two.

Over these two years though, the impact of this experience has slowly dawned on me. As I meandered my way through the UWC experience, I began to realise how the point wasn’t so much about why I had been lucky enough to make a wrong turn, as much as the kind of attitude and mindset that I should embrace.

I’ll be honest – the first few weeks in LPC were confusing, difficult and overwhelming. All too often I would ask myself repeatedly, why did I even choose to come here? Why didn’t I just stay at my old school, in my old comfort zone? Surely something had gone disastrously wrong in the admissions process. I remember telling people – I think I like this place, but I definitely do not love it. I’m sure many of us felt the same way.

But, as the second years reassured me, the beauty of this place, – its magic, its charm, its wonder – grows on you. Little by little you become less reserved and more forthcoming, less frosty and more eager, less anxious and more relaxed. And they were right.

Look at us now. Look at all that we have achieved together in two years. We have put together countless cultural evenings – ICE, CCE, ECE,APEC,MESA,NACE, LACE, ACE. We have performed plays, put together exhibitions, played music, hosted charity concerts. We have achieved great physical feats: arriving late to the 24 Hour Race, and winning it not only once, but twice. We have hosted conferences and day camps, initiated projects of all sorts and brought in positive changes of all kinds. We stood by our values, we made our voices heard, we learned to be true UWC students. We did all this in two years.

And yet all these achievements would have remained imaginary – an abstract figment floating around in the lake of our subconscious – had we not dared to step away from our comfort zone and embrace the challenge LPC presented us. Instead of fear and the prospect of failure, all of us here saw new possibilities and opportunities. We were presented with challenges, and we embraced them. We found here a sense of idealism – a belief in UWC values, but more importantly, a belief in ourselves.

So, as I reflect on my time here, I think back to that Boxing Day morning seven years ago in Thailand – the day when I made a wrong turn that saved my life. What has two years of LPC life taught me about the significance of that lifesaving wrong turn? It has taught me that more often than not, failures are opportunities wrapped under a deceptive cloak of disguise. Too often we fail to take action for fear of failure. But how valid is this fear, really? I had made a wrong turn – technically, a failure – and yet it saved my life. Failure is not, and should not, be an obstacle. All that’s stopping us is the fear of some hypothetical failure – mucking up, making mistakes, embarrassing yourself…but really, what’s the worst that could happen? Failure: opportunity in disguise.

I think this is one of the most important things I’ve learnt in my two years here. Opportunities are everywhere – all we have to do is to look for them them, to challenge ourselves and to aim for nothing less than success. And now as we get ready to leave LPC and continue with our own journeys, we should keep in mind that there is no such thing as a failure. The only failure is the failure to recognise opportunities.

Thank you.





From Hidden Beauties, a Reminder

2 01 2012

I read about an old journalism adage recently, that the best story is often the one staring you in the face. It’s been floating around in the back of my mind lately, and I think it can be extended to include Hong Kong’s beauties: its best aspects are often staring us right in the face.

Visiting Po Toi Island yesterday to wrap up 2011, it felt as if I had been transported far from Hong Kong and dropped on some exotic paradise of some sort. The South China Sea stretched relentlessly on before me, the rocky landscape was interspersed with fantastical rock structures, and everywhere I looked, there was a sense that this island had stories to tell.

As I walked towards the southern tip of this southern most island of Hong Kong on the last day of 2011, it occurred to me that there was something very ironic and paradoxical about it all. Here I was, counting the last hours of the year 2011, reflecting on and celebrating the happenings of the past 365 days. And yet right under my very feet was a cliff made of rocks millions of years old, and all around me there were rocks jutting out of the landscape, looking like a monk from this angle, a turtle from another. No one had moved them there – nature’s elements did, over a long, long time.

And so while I was there counting time in hours, surrounding me was a landscape created through an eternity. This, I think, was a reminder. When we counted down ten, nine, eight seven…what did those ten seconds really mean? Nothing, really, when put into perspective of the eternity of the surrounding world.

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up 2011.

Counting time in hours while touching time in the form of millions of years...a reminder of our place in the world.





A Wrong Turn……That Saved My Life

25 12 2011

Note: After a 10 week long hiatus, I’ve decided that I must revive my blog writing habits. So, as one of my New Year’s Resolutions (I don’t usually do them, but anyway), I shall endeavour to update my blog weekly, no matter how short the post. Let’s get started.

There are no wrong turns. (Photo from MBAdventure)

Seven years ago tomorrow, I made a wrong turn, and it saved my life.

My family and I together with family friends were on vacation in Thailand. I was heading back to the room along with two friends to fetch my beachwear. The route was straightforward: down the stairs, then a right turn to the seaside, where our room was. I had walked this route multiple times before and yet for reasons which I will never know, I subconsciously and unknowingly made a wrong turn. I turned left, away from our room, away from the sea. Away from fatal danger.

For it was only minutes later, while I wandered around hopelessly lost, that the devastating waves of a tsunami came crashing down on the resort – waves which would have engulfed me, knocked me out and killed me without mercy. Yet miraculously, the waves did not hit me. I was safe because I had turned left, away from the beach. Because I had made a wrong turn.

Back then, the gravity of it all eluded me. It seemed like dumb luck: I had had a 50-50 chance between life and death, and  my bad sense of direction had inadvertently nudged me towards the former.

Over the years though, the impact of this experience has slowly dawned on me. The point now wasn’t so much about why I had been lucky enough to make a wrong turn as much as what this simple lifesaving mistake could teach me about…well, life.

I began to realise that more often than not, failures are opportunities wrapped under a deceptive cloak of disguise. Too often we fail to take action for fear of failure. But how valid is this fear, really? All that’s stopping us is the fear of some hypothetical failure – mucking up, making mistakes, embarrassing yourself…but really, what’s the worst that could happen? Failure: opportunity in disguise.

This is the philosophy that guides me now. Of course, it’s our nature to fear failure. Whenever I catch myself doing so, though, I just have to remind myself of that lifesaving wrong turn seven years ago.

For me, there are no wrong turns. Only opportunities.