In the wake of close to 100 self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Beijng’s policies, 91 international scholars have written a petition calling on Vice President Xi Jinping to protect the Tibetan language and culture as a means to end the “crisis.” From the New York Times blog:
“Over the last several years, the authorities have been trying to institute new measures that eliminate or severely restrict the use of Tibetan as the language of instruction in Tibetan-speaking areas,” they wrote.
“We know the value of Tibet’s civilization and we regret that the Tibetan language, which is its fundamental support, is seemingly marginalized and devalued in the TAR,” or the Tibet Autonomous Region, as Tibet is known in China, “and in various other Tibetan autonomous administrative units at the same time that it is increasingly being taught and studied in universities around the world.”
Examples in the petition include: replacing Tibetan with Chinese as the medium of education in Qinghai Province in 2010; and replacing textbooks written in Tibetan with Chinese textbooks in Rebkong, or Tongren county, also in Qinghai Province, in March 2012.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the issues the scholars describe are widespread.
Read the full text of the petition.
Tibetans in various regions have protested the use of Mandarin Chinese in education, including in Qinghai in 2010 when Mandarin replaced Tibetan in local schools. In February, the New York Times reported on a rare Tibetan school that was working to pass on the Tibetan language and culture to its students.