Lobsang Gendun

For days, Lobsang Gendun has been staying in a hotel, avoiding his telephone and trying to duck an Olympic firestorm that he had no part in creating.

Since last week, when his name was mistakenly linked to a protester in Paris who tried to snatch the Olympic torch from an athlete in a wheelchair, Gendun has been inundated with blistering and sometimes threatening phone calls and e-mails.

Internet sites posted his name, address, phone number and even a map of his neighborhood along with inflammatory comments. His employer has been accused of keeping a "terrorist" on the payroll.

It's true that Gendun protested the Olympic torch relay — but in San Francisco, not Paris.

"I told them, 'You've got the wrong person,"' said Gendun, 44, a soft-spoken father of two who came to the United States from India in 1992.

Beijing will host the Summer Olympics, and the relay has been disrupted in Greece, Istanbul, London and Paris by people opposed to China's policies in Tibet.

Gendun, who recently served as secretary of the Utah Tibetan Association, joined about 30 other Tibetans last week for a trip to San Francisco, the only North American stop for the torch.

"It was totally peaceful," he said. "We just wanted to tell people there's something bad going on in Tibet."

His group left Salt Lake City on April 7, the same morning that a man in Paris tried to grab the torch from a one-legged Chinese fencer in a wheelchair.

Like thousands of other protesters in San Francisco, Gendun spent much of his time trying to figure out the relay route. He spoke with a few reporters there but never saw the torch.

The harassment started when he returned to Salt Lake City.

The phone rang at 2 a.m. Saturday but the caller hung up. After about six similar calls, Gendun unplugged the phone. The calls resumed after he plugged his phone in later that day.

Some people spoke in a language he couldn't understand. Others cursed him in English. Gendun finally figured out the fuss.

He tried to have a constructive conversation with a Chinese restaurant owner from Tennessee.

"I told him I don't have anything against the Chinese people. They're all my brothers and sisters," Gendun said. "What I'm against is communism. What I want is freedom — freedom to speak, freedom to move."

A reporter from Hong Kong called and said Gendun's name was all over the Chinese news as the man who tried to steal the Olympic torch.

"He told me, 'You need to be very careful, anything could happen to you in your life,"' Gendun recalled. "Then I started to get frightened."

His e-mail box was filled with angry, often pro-China messages. Some had photos of a pig with the face of a younger man who was photographed during the incident in Paris.

Gendun has no idea how his name got linked to Paris. Whatever the case, it hit the Internet and spread quickly.

Soon there were posts with personal information, including his employer, O.C. Tanner, which made the gold, silver and bronze medals for the 2002 Winter Olympics and is making commemorative rings for U.S. athletes competing in Beijing.

On Sunday and Monday, O.C. Tanner offices in Utah, Canada and the United Kingdom received more than 70 e-mails. Some had a reasonable tone but others called Gendun a criminal, fascist or terrorist.

"This has been confirmed as a case of mistaken identity," the company said in response.

Concerned about safety, the company put Gendun and his family in a hotel.

He grew up in northern India with other Tibetans who left because of Chinese rule. Gendun moved to the United States in 1992 and soon got a job at O.C. Tanner, where he works as a machinist cutting dyes and making ring molds.

A large number of Tibetans and Chinese work side by side.

"Everyone gets along really well," said Kaye Jorgensen, the company's vice president for human resources.

Gendun said the case of mistaken identity at least has brought attention to the Tibetan cause.

"This is a very good thing to happen to me," he said. "I get a chance to say what I have to say. This is a free land and if you follow the rules and regulations, you can express your opinion whenever you want."