[lg policy] Student demonstrations in China's Qinghai province highlight concerns over change in the medium of instruction in schools

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 15 14:45:11 UTC 2012

Language Policy Comes Under Scrutiny

Student demonstrations in China's Qinghai province highlight concerns
over change in the medium of instruction in schools.

Updated at 10:10 a.m. EST on 2012-03-15

Tibetans have reignited a campaign to highlight language rights in
Tibetan-populated areas, with about 4,000 students taking to the
streets in three counties in China's northwestern Qinghai province on
Wednesday to protest a possible change in the medium of instruction in
schools. The protests against a proposed change from Tibetan to
Chinese language occurred in schools in Rebkong (in Chinese, Tongren),
Tsekhog (Zeku) and Kangtsa (Gangcha) counties, according to a Tibetan
exile spokesman for the Rebkong community based in the Indian hilltown
of Dharamsala.

It was the biggest protest since October 2010 when thousands of
Tibetan middle and primary school pupils from four different Tibetan
autonomous prefectures in Qinghai Province demonstrated for days
against a language change policy. On Wednesday, they "protested
against the Chinese [language] policy," the spokesman said. The
current wave of language protests began on March 4, when around 700
students from the Rebkong County Middle School of Nationalities
returned to their school after a holiday break to find their textbooks
for the new term written in Chinese, the London-based rights group
Free Tibet said in a March 8 statement.

"They started ripping the books up and tried to march into the town to
call for language rights," but were stopped by their teachers from
proceeding into town, the group said. This week's protests came as a
Tibetan monk set himself ablaze Wednesday at his monastery in Rebkong
in Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture,
triggering demonstrations by hundreds of monks and others against
Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas.

The self-immolation on Wednesday was the 28th by Tibetans since they
began a wave of fiery protests in February 2009 to challenge Beijing's
rule and call for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the
Dalai Lama. The student demonstrations on Wednesday began when several
hundred students of three schools—Rebkong Yushu Middle School, Rebkong
County Middle School of Nationalities and Gedun Choephel
School—gathered to criticize planned changes to the education policy.


Joining the protests were more than 2,500 students of Rebkong and
Tsekhog counties "demanding equality for all nationalities [and]
freedom of language," another exile source said, quoting local
contacts in the region. They also called for the removal of Chinese
military barracks in Tsekhog county, the source said. "The students
marched to the county police station, the office of local armed
paramilitary forces, and the county government center," the source

"Armed police and paramilitary forces did arrive at the scene, but
there were no reports of cracking down or the detention of any
students," according to the source. Also on Wednesday, about 100
students in Kangtsa county protested against Chinese rule, calling for
self-ownership of land and "equality for languages." They marched to
the Kangtsa county center and were stopped by police when they tried
to enter the street leading to the town. They returned to their
schools and shouted slogans.

Tensions have heightened in Tibetan-populated provinces and in the
Tibet Autonomous Region following a Chinese security clampdown and the
detention of hundreds of monks since early last year.


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