Tibetans Protest China’s Plan to Curb Language

The New York Times reports on ongoing protests in Qinghai by Tibetan students angered by a plan to change the primary language of instruction to Mandarin Chinese:

Thousands of Tibetan students in western China have protested since Tuesday against proposals to curb or eliminate the use of the Tibetan language in local schools, according to reports from Tibet advocacy groups and photographs and video of the protests circulating on the Internet.

The protests are the largest in Tibetan areas since the March 2008 uprising that began in Lhasa and spread across the Tibetan plateau. But unlike those protests, these have been peaceful and have involved mostly students.

A protest against the proposed policies was also held in Beijing on Friday afternoon, drawing hundreds of Tibetan students at a prominent university that specializes in teaching ethnic minorities, according to witness reports and photographs.

The widespread protests over language reveal the deep resentment that many Tibetans feel over policies formulated by the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group, that Tibetans say are diluting their culture. Many Tibetans in western China also complain of strict controls over the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, including a ban on images of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, and large-scale Han migration to Tibetan towns. The Han end up taking many jobs that would otherwise go to Tibetans.

See video of the protests from RFA:

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the protests have spread to Beijing with students at the Central University for Minorities in Beijing also taking part:

A source at the university who did not wish to be identified said 200 to 300 students participated in the two-hour protest at midday, after which the president of the university and teachers called them into classrooms and asked them to write out their complaints in Chinese.

Among Tibetans, the language of instruction in schools is a flashpoint for protest. Although many families want their children to learn Chinese so they can attend a university and apply for better jobs, they also worry that Chinese officials are seeking to diminish their language, culture and religion.

The largest of the protests this week was in Tongren, known as Repkong in Tibetan, a city in Qinghai province that has frequently been the scene of ethnic clashes. These were the largest demonstrations by China’s Tibetans since 2008, when clashes erupted in the city of Lhasa and spread through most of the Tibetan communities in China.

The High Peaks Pure Earth blog has posted several photos of the Beijing protest, which it heard about on China-based social networking sites Renren and MyBudala.

Anti-Mandarin protests broke out in Guangzhou in July when officials announced a plan for local TV stations to broadcast only in the official dialect. See reports from CDT.

October 22, 2010 1:37 PM
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